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Zak Wojnar

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About Zak Wojnar

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  1. Ever since the release of the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005, TT Games' Lego titles have long held the line with an endless suite of family-friendly games designed with accessibility in mind, yet doesn't shy away from tricky puzzles and challenging platforming sections. The franchise had made use of a ton of licenses over the years, from Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and both Marvel and DC. Still, the brand most intimately associated with Traveller's Tales' licensed LEGO adventures has always been Star Wars. For the latest Lego Star Wars, TT is starting from scratch with a whole new game engine while telling a Lego version of the entire nine-film opus known as The Skywalker Saga. Though previous Lego Star Wars games have covered Episodes I-VII (in Lego Star Wars, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens), The Skywalker Saga isn't just building new levels on top of the foundation of those games. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a completely new game built with completely new gameplay in mind, and represents the start of a whole new generation of Lego games. During E3 2019, I got the chance to see a live demo of the game at the Warner Brothers booth, and I came away impressed by what appears to be a true generational leap in technology over previous Lego games. Rather than a central hub world connecting all the movies, like the Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex's Diner from the original Lego Star Wars games, players choose which movie they would like to experience, and are presented with a variety of planets to explore and story missions to play. Thus, planets like Tatooine and Naboo, which appear in multiple films, can appear different depending on which movie is being explored. For the sake of the presentation, my group was shown off a section of Return of the Jedi. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will feature both space travel and on-foot exploration, with both having the appearance of an open-world adventure, complete with seemingly random Star Destroyer encounters in space and a variety of locations to seek and discover on the ground below. On the surface of Tatooine, the major advancements taken by The Skywalker Saga become obvious. While still accessible to young players, the gameplay has clearly evolved. For example, gone are the fixed cameras of previous titles. The Skywalker Saga looks like the Lego games have finally made the leap to become true 3D platformers; it's a logical step for the series, since the most acclaimed parts of titles like Lego Marvel Superheroes and Lego Batman 2 have, indeed, been the fully open-world hub areas. TT Games have done more than just map the camera to the right analog stick; characters equipped with blasters now play like a straight-up third person shooter, complete with dual analog controls. Gone are the days of tacky lock-on targeting and automated shootouts. The Force Awakens experimented with a cover system and timing-based blaster battles, but it's about time the series really stepped up on this level. Of course, without hands-on experience playing the game, it's too soon to determine how tight and responsive the controls are, or how exciting the gunplay will be, but my brief glimpse suggested things are going well for the game. Lightsaber combat has been revamped with timed button presses akin to the Batman Arkham games to build combos, while characters proficient with The Force are no longer limited to moving predetermined objects; a brand new physics system allows characters like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren to freely move objects with real time physics, allowing for more in-depth puzzle solving and combat applications. All combined, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has all the appearances of a genuine, legitimate, fully realized Star Wars game... Only using Lego! Lego's signature brand of humor remains in The Skywalker Saga, as evidenced by the sight of dancing banthas, though the story progression remains mysterious. It's unclear how closely the story will follow the films, or if the game will feature voice acting from the film actors. On that front, hopes are high The Skywalker Saga can build on the silly, yet sincere, storytelling in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a game which famously got Harrison Ford to utter the phrase "Wookie Cookie." Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks incredibly promising, and has the potential to be the breath of fresh air for the admittedly slightly stagnant Lego franchise. Hopes are high The Skywalker Saga lives up to and surpasses its pedigree, especially if its fundamental gameplay changes are to serve as the foundation for the entire next generation of Lego titles. We'll find out for sure when the game releases sometime in 2020, perhaps in time for the home video release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. Ever since the release of the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005, TT Games' Lego titles have long held the line with an endless suite of family-friendly games designed with accessibility in mind, yet doesn't shy away from tricky puzzles and challenging platforming sections. The franchise had made use of a ton of licenses over the years, from Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and both Marvel and DC. Still, the brand most intimately associated with Traveller's Tales' licensed LEGO adventures has always been Star Wars. For the latest Lego Star Wars, TT is starting from scratch with a whole new game engine while telling a Lego version of the entire nine-film opus known as The Skywalker Saga. Though previous Lego Star Wars games have covered Episodes I-VII (in Lego Star Wars, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens), The Skywalker Saga isn't just building new levels on top of the foundation of those games. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a completely new game built with completely new gameplay in mind, and represents the start of a whole new generation of Lego games. During E3 2019, I got the chance to see a live demo of the game at the Warner Brothers booth, and I came away impressed by what appears to be a true generational leap in technology over previous Lego games. Rather than a central hub world connecting all the movies, like the Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex's Diner from the original Lego Star Wars games, players choose which movie they would like to experience, and are presented with a variety of planets to explore and story missions to play. Thus, planets like Tatooine and Naboo, which appear in multiple films, can appear different depending on which movie is being explored. For the sake of the presentation, my group was shown off a section of Return of the Jedi. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will feature both space travel and on-foot exploration, with both having the appearance of an open-world adventure, complete with seemingly random Star Destroyer encounters in space and a variety of locations to seek and discover on the ground below. On the surface of Tatooine, the major advancements taken by The Skywalker Saga become obvious. While still accessible to young players, the gameplay has clearly evolved. For example, gone are the fixed cameras of previous titles. The Skywalker Saga looks like the Lego games have finally made the leap to become true 3D platformers; it's a logical step for the series, since the most acclaimed parts of titles like Lego Marvel Superheroes and Lego Batman 2 have, indeed, been the fully open-world hub areas. TT Games have done more than just map the camera to the right analog stick; characters equipped with blasters now play like a straight-up third person shooter, complete with dual analog controls. Gone are the days of tacky lock-on targeting and automated shootouts. The Force Awakens experimented with a cover system and timing-based blaster battles, but it's about time the series really stepped up on this level. Of course, without hands-on experience playing the game, it's too soon to determine how tight and responsive the controls are, or how exciting the gunplay will be, but my brief glimpse suggested things are going well for the game. Lightsaber combat has been revamped with timed button presses akin to the Batman Arkham games to build combos, while characters proficient with The Force are no longer limited to moving predetermined objects; a brand new physics system allows characters like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren to freely move objects with real time physics, allowing for more in-depth puzzle solving and combat applications. All combined, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has all the appearances of a genuine, legitimate, fully realized Star Wars game... Only using Lego! Lego's signature brand of humor remains in The Skywalker Saga, as evidenced by the sight of dancing banthas, though the story progression remains mysterious. It's unclear how closely the story will follow the films, or if the game will feature voice acting from the film actors. On that front, hopes are high The Skywalker Saga can build on the silly, yet sincere, storytelling in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a game which famously got Harrison Ford to utter the phrase "Wookie Cookie." Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks incredibly promising, and has the potential to be the breath of fresh air for the admittedly slightly stagnant Lego franchise. Hopes are high The Skywalker Saga lives up to and surpasses its pedigree, especially if its fundamental gameplay changes are to serve as the foundation for the entire next generation of Lego titles. We'll find out for sure when the game releases sometime in 2020, perhaps in time for the home video release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. After the 2014 release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, developer MachineGames followed up with a stand-alone expansion, The Old Blood. Likewise, after Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, publisher Bethesda is gearing up for the launch of a new title in the series. While not the Wolfenstein III fans are eagerly awaiting, Youngblood still takes some big risks with the aim of shaking up the status quo for this high concept spin-off. The biggest addition to Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the inclusion of two player co-op. While the game can still be played solo, multiplayer brings a host of new opportunities for both tactical stealth and chaotic action alike. Wolfenstein has always been strategic and difficult, but Youngblood adds a whole new layer of jolly cooperation to the proceedings. In addition to these new gameplay possibilities, Youngblood also takes big risks with the storyline, being set in Nazi-occupied France twenty years after the end of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. A line of dialogue in the demo says B.J. Blazkowicz is the man who killed Hitler, while trailers identity America as the "Liberated United States," presumably alluding to events from a future game which hasn't officially been announced yet. It's a bold approach, but one with exciting potential for storytelling as the series moves forward. The E3 floor demo paired me up with a stranger, and we were dropped into a level set on a French city street. Cast in the roles of B.J.'s twin daughters, Soph and Jess, players must fight and sneak their way behind enemy lines while searching for their father, who has gone missing in the region. The demo began with a stealth section, but it only took seconds for my co-op partner to trigger the alarm, so I switched from my silenced pistol to a heavy-duty shotgun, and started blasting Nazis into oblivion with a non-stop hailstorm of large-caliber firepower. Almost immediately, I was struck by one of the biggest changes to Youngblood: enemy health. While regular enemies can still be dispatched with a few well-placed bullets, bigger baddies (which are frequently encountered) can take a comical amount of punishment before going down for good. Perhaps this was done to emphasize co-op team work, but it comes across as a way to artificially inflate difficulty. Then again, my co-op partner wasn't exactly a world champion Wolfenstein player, so it might not feel so unbalanced when playing with a trusted friend. Still, there's nothing that can justify the obtrusive enemy health bars which make the game look like an RPG and dilute the cinematic presentation which has consistently made Wolfenstein stand out from its peers. One positive change appears to be the new XP system; rather than performing specific (and sometimes obtuse) tasks to upgrade specific abilities, killing Nazis earns XP, which translates into skill points which can be spent on a variety of skills, though the specifics of the skill trees were not part of the E3 2019 demo. As the demo progressed, me and my partner blasted our way through multiple waves of enemy troops, utterly decimating checkpoint after checkpoint, putting the Nazis in their proper place. dead under the boot of righteous justice. Though I had to revive my companion multiple times, he still came in handy when I needed a bullet sponge to draw the attention of the big enemies while I scavenged for ammo; by the end, though, he started to get a grasp on the game, and we eventually became a well-oiled, two-pronged killing machine. Alas, the demo came to an unceremonious end at a potentially exciting juncture. We came to a choke point with a mounted laser gun and a sizeable assortment of Nazis down below. My partner dutifully took a position on the mounted gun, and I ran off the bridge, jumping into the fray, prepared to blast my way through the enemy while my guardian angel rained death from above. Midway through my bold flying leap off the bridge, the game froze and the demo crashed to the desktop. Well, that's one way to end a demo! E3 demos crash all the time, and the builds shown to the press and the public aren't necessarily the most recent. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a promising game with lots of potential, though some of its design choices had me second-guessing the priorities of developers MachineGames and Arkane Studios. Then again, with Arkane, it takes more than a 15-minute vertical slice to make an earnest judgment on the game's quality. Either way, I'm still excited to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood all the way through with a co-op partner by my side to see how the whole adventure shakes out. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  4. After the 2014 release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, developer MachineGames followed up with a stand-alone expansion, The Old Blood. Likewise, after Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, publisher Bethesda is gearing up for the launch of a new title in the series. While not the Wolfenstein III fans are eagerly awaiting, Youngblood still takes some big risks with the aim of shaking up the status quo for this high concept spin-off. The biggest addition to Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the inclusion of two player co-op. While the game can still be played solo, multiplayer brings a host of new opportunities for both tactical stealth and chaotic action alike. Wolfenstein has always been strategic and difficult, but Youngblood adds a whole new layer of jolly cooperation to the proceedings. In addition to these new gameplay possibilities, Youngblood also takes big risks with the storyline, being set in Nazi-occupied France twenty years after the end of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. A line of dialogue in the demo says B.J. Blazkowicz is the man who killed Hitler, while trailers identity America as the "Liberated United States," presumably alluding to events from a future game which hasn't officially been announced yet. It's a bold approach, but one with exciting potential for storytelling as the series moves forward. The E3 floor demo paired me up with a stranger, and we were dropped into a level set on a French city street. Cast in the roles of B.J.'s twin daughters, Soph and Jess, players must fight and sneak their way behind enemy lines while searching for their father, who has gone missing in the region. The demo began with a stealth section, but it only took seconds for my co-op partner to trigger the alarm, so I switched from my silenced pistol to a heavy-duty shotgun, and started blasting Nazis into oblivion with a non-stop hailstorm of large-caliber firepower. Almost immediately, I was struck by one of the biggest changes to Youngblood: enemy health. While regular enemies can still be dispatched with a few well-placed bullets, bigger baddies (which are frequently encountered) can take a comical amount of punishment before going down for good. Perhaps this was done to emphasize co-op team work, but it comes across as a way to artificially inflate difficulty. Then again, my co-op partner wasn't exactly a world champion Wolfenstein player, so it might not feel so unbalanced when playing with a trusted friend. Still, there's nothing that can justify the obtrusive enemy health bars which make the game look like an RPG and dilute the cinematic presentation which has consistently made Wolfenstein stand out from its peers. One positive change appears to be the new XP system; rather than performing specific (and sometimes obtuse) tasks to upgrade specific abilities, killing Nazis earns XP, which translates into skill points which can be spent on a variety of skills, though the specifics of the skill trees were not part of the E3 2019 demo. As the demo progressed, me and my partner blasted our way through multiple waves of enemy troops, utterly decimating checkpoint after checkpoint, putting the Nazis in their proper place. dead under the boot of righteous justice. Though I had to revive my companion multiple times, he still came in handy when I needed a bullet sponge to draw the attention of the big enemies while I scavenged for ammo; by the end, though, he started to get a grasp on the game, and we eventually became a well-oiled, two-pronged killing machine. Alas, the demo came to an unceremonious end at a potentially exciting juncture. We came to a choke point with a mounted laser gun and a sizeable assortment of Nazis down below. My partner dutifully took a position on the mounted gun, and I ran off the bridge, jumping into the fray, prepared to blast my way through the enemy while my guardian angel rained death from above. Midway through my bold flying leap off the bridge, the game froze and the demo crashed to the desktop. Well, that's one way to end a demo! E3 demos crash all the time, and the builds shown to the press and the public aren't necessarily the most recent. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a promising game with lots of potential, though some of its design choices had me second-guessing the priorities of developers MachineGames and Arkane Studios. Then again, with Arkane, it takes more than a 15-minute vertical slice to make an earnest judgment on the game's quality. Either way, I'm still excited to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood all the way through with a co-op partner by my side to see how the whole adventure shakes out. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  5. The Sniper Ghost Warrior series has always played second fiddle to Rebellion's Sniper Elite series, but developer and publisher CI Games is keen on making each entry better than the last. After Ghost Warrior 3 stumbled with a large open world devoid of content, the latest sequel aims to go in a different direction. Contracts has the ambition to be the best title in the series, but is that enough to stand alongside the best in the genre? In a behind-closed-doors preview at E3 2019, I witnessed a developer demo before getting the chance to go hands-on with the title myself. From the outset, it's clear Contracts is taking to heart the lessons learned from Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. That game featured a single expansive setting, but didn't benefit from its square mileage the way a game like Far Cry 5 does, and players generally spent way too much time driving to and from objectives rather than actually sniping targets. For Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, the open world setting has been jettisoned in favor of dense, linear levels with sandbox elements. In the level we witnessed, the developer had to go from the starting point to the base, and there were a number of options for infiltration, from sniping guards along the road to platforming across treacherous gaps. The level, set in a Siberian research base, had strong Cold War vibes, with a windy blizzard limiting visibility and camouflaged guards patrolling while bickering with one another. After using a debug menu to warp to the main objective (no time for dilly-dallying at E3!), the main hook of Sniper emerged. Pulling out binoculars to mark targets works much the same as any number of stealth games from this decade, but Contracts has a few tricks up its sleeve to mix things up, in the form of different bullet types. In addition to standard sniping ammo and armor piercing bullets which can take down multiple targets with a single shot, Contracts also features "tagging" bullets, which can find enemies outside of line-of-sight and mark them for the player. Meanwhile, surveillance cameras can be taken out one by one, or the linked electrical box can be taken out with an EMP bullet, shutting down a whole network with a single pull of the trigger. Based on the presentation and our hands-on time with the game, the main theme of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts hinges on the difference a single bullet can make. As the developer demo neared its apex, a large majority of guards had been marked, the cameras had been disabled, and the main target had been spotted. The developer lined up his shot and pushed a button to hold his breath. In this focused mode, a red dot appears onscreen, indicating where the bullet will actually land when taking into account wind and distance (though it is possible for hardcore players to disable this helping hand). The developer fires his shot at the precise moment the target leans to go through an idle animation, and the bullet misses its target by mere inches – an unforeseen circumstance. Rather than reloading the checkpoint, however, the developer attempts to hold off the nearby guards alerted to his presence. One, he takes down with barrage of silenced pistol fire, while the other is dispatched with a slow-motion melee takedown. Unfortunately, another guard sees him and mows him down with several bursts from his assault rifle, an unceremonious, but still exhilarating, end to the demo. Upon finally going hands-on with Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, we were impressed and perturbed by the game's unforgiving difficulty curve. For better or for worse, Contracts remains equally challenging and rewarding, and a single misstep can swiftly lead a Game Over screen. First, we attempted to platform across the outer perimeter of the base, entirely bypassing enemy patrols. We were almost successful, but misjudged one of the leaps and promptly fell to our doom. Our second attempt involved sneaking behind enemy lines, stealthily taking down stray guards. We found a small encampment on the outskirts of the base, some type of vehicle fueling station loaded with guards. A single shot to a fuel container caused the whole area to go up in flames, killing most of the guards in the area, at the expense of putting the main base on alert, though our position remained hidden... Until we came across a patrol who gunned us down while we fumbled for our throwing knives. Based on this early look at the game, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts looks like a sizeable improvement over its predecessors, though it doesn't seem particularly interested in bringing new players into the fold. CI Games knows its audience, and they are more interested in satisfying their cravings than making Sniper Ghost Warrior a series that anyone can just pick up and play. At the very least, one has no choice but to admire this approach. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts does not currently have a release window, but is scheduled to come out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games View full article
  6. The Sniper Ghost Warrior series has always played second fiddle to Rebellion's Sniper Elite series, but developer and publisher CI Games is keen on making each entry better than the last. After Ghost Warrior 3 stumbled with a large open world devoid of content, the latest sequel aims to go in a different direction. Contracts has the ambition to be the best title in the series, but is that enough to stand alongside the best in the genre? In a behind-closed-doors preview at E3 2019, I witnessed a developer demo before getting the chance to go hands-on with the title myself. From the outset, it's clear Contracts is taking to heart the lessons learned from Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. That game featured a single expansive setting, but didn't benefit from its square mileage the way a game like Far Cry 5 does, and players generally spent way too much time driving to and from objectives rather than actually sniping targets. For Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, the open world setting has been jettisoned in favor of dense, linear levels with sandbox elements. In the level we witnessed, the developer had to go from the starting point to the base, and there were a number of options for infiltration, from sniping guards along the road to platforming across treacherous gaps. The level, set in a Siberian research base, had strong Cold War vibes, with a windy blizzard limiting visibility and camouflaged guards patrolling while bickering with one another. After using a debug menu to warp to the main objective (no time for dilly-dallying at E3!), the main hook of Sniper emerged. Pulling out binoculars to mark targets works much the same as any number of stealth games from this decade, but Contracts has a few tricks up its sleeve to mix things up, in the form of different bullet types. In addition to standard sniping ammo and armor piercing bullets which can take down multiple targets with a single shot, Contracts also features "tagging" bullets, which can find enemies outside of line-of-sight and mark them for the player. Meanwhile, surveillance cameras can be taken out one by one, or the linked electrical box can be taken out with an EMP bullet, shutting down a whole network with a single pull of the trigger. Based on the presentation and our hands-on time with the game, the main theme of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts hinges on the difference a single bullet can make. As the developer demo neared its apex, a large majority of guards had been marked, the cameras had been disabled, and the main target had been spotted. The developer lined up his shot and pushed a button to hold his breath. In this focused mode, a red dot appears onscreen, indicating where the bullet will actually land when taking into account wind and distance (though it is possible for hardcore players to disable this helping hand). The developer fires his shot at the precise moment the target leans to go through an idle animation, and the bullet misses its target by mere inches – an unforeseen circumstance. Rather than reloading the checkpoint, however, the developer attempts to hold off the nearby guards alerted to his presence. One, he takes down with barrage of silenced pistol fire, while the other is dispatched with a slow-motion melee takedown. Unfortunately, another guard sees him and mows him down with several bursts from his assault rifle, an unceremonious, but still exhilarating, end to the demo. Upon finally going hands-on with Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts, we were impressed and perturbed by the game's unforgiving difficulty curve. For better or for worse, Contracts remains equally challenging and rewarding, and a single misstep can swiftly lead a Game Over screen. First, we attempted to platform across the outer perimeter of the base, entirely bypassing enemy patrols. We were almost successful, but misjudged one of the leaps and promptly fell to our doom. Our second attempt involved sneaking behind enemy lines, stealthily taking down stray guards. We found a small encampment on the outskirts of the base, some type of vehicle fueling station loaded with guards. A single shot to a fuel container caused the whole area to go up in flames, killing most of the guards in the area, at the expense of putting the main base on alert, though our position remained hidden... Until we came across a patrol who gunned us down while we fumbled for our throwing knives. Based on this early look at the game, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts looks like a sizeable improvement over its predecessors, though it doesn't seem particularly interested in bringing new players into the fold. CI Games knows its audience, and they are more interested in satisfying their cravings than making Sniper Ghost Warrior a series that anyone can just pick up and play. At the very least, one has no choice but to admire this approach. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts does not currently have a release window, but is scheduled to come out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games
  7. When the first teaser trailer for Marvel's Avengers debuted back in 2017, the game presented itself as a mysterious enigma, with the main selling point being the inclusion of Earth's Mightiest Heroes together in an action-packed video game from the developers behind Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When the first gameplay trailer appeared at Square Enix's E3 2019 press conference, the game remained mysterious, though at least would-be fans were presented with a taste of what Marvel's Avengers will offer to players. For better or worse, after sitting through the E3 show floor demo at Square Enix's booth, Marvel's Avengers is still a wild card, which me feeling cautiously optimistic regarding what the game will offer when it launches next year. Although a hands-off experience, the E3 2019 demo for Marvel's Avengers did feature live gameplay of the level shown in the trailer. This is almost definitely the prologue of the game, and features all five of the currently confirmed cast (Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow) kicking butt when Taskmaster and a mysterious group of mercenaries attack an event celebrating the opening of a West Coast Avengers headquarters. The demo kicks off with Iron Man and Thor flying towards the commotion on the bridge before splitting up so Thor can handle a group of bad guys trying to cause trouble nearby. The game seamlessly transitions from cutscene to gameplay as Thor begins taking down the mercs while quipping one-liners about his godly superiority over meager humans. The combat itself looks impressive as Thor's hammer strikes send enemies ragdolling dozens of feet through the air, a violent spectacle which really sells the true power of Marvel's God of Thunder. Eventually, Iron Man shows up and starts taking on goons himself, though, of the five Avengers shown thus far, Tony Stark feels the least exciting, at least based on this early look at his melee combos. In the MCU, Iron Man is the type of character who takes down his foes with a single strike, and the sight of this particular hero using fisticuff strikes against regular enemies just doesn't ring true to the spirit of the character. His ranged attacks, on the other hand, are as explosive and efficient as one would expect. As the fight moves to the Golden Gate Bridge, The Incredible Hulk joins the fray. Dr. Bruce Banner jumps from the Quinjet without first removing his expensive-looking shirt (those things don't grow on trees, Bruce!) and morphs into the Hulk as he lands. The E3 trailer skips the actual morphing moment, but it looks fantastic in action. Hulk's gameplay consists of a mix of Quick Time Events and hand-to-hand fighting as he moves to varying sections of the crumbling bridge, taking out bad guys with visceral ferocity. One noteworthy combat move has the not-so-jolly green giant picking up an enemy in each hand before clapping them together in a comically brutal display of strength. The action segues to the helicarrier, in which Captain America tries to repel an attack. Visually, Cap is the most distinct of The Avengers, with his default outfit sporting a tactical, "urban combat" look which helps make the character feel distinct from other iterations of Steve Rogers. His moveset revolves around throwing his shield around the battlefield, kicking it back once as it returns to him, and using that window to close the distance and take down enemies with grappling takedowns and powerful punches. Finally, Black Widow takes on Taskmaster in a one-on-one boss battle interspersed with Quick Time Events. Though the QTE segments look rudimentary and almost archaic, the fight itself does a good job of showing off the personality of Widow and Taskmaster, who quip back and forth about the villain's "photographic reflexes," which allow him to repel any attack after he sees it performed. Indeed, when Black Widow tries to repeat a combat move on the mercenary leader, he is able to easily defend itself, forcing her to use every combat tool at her disposal to fight the skull-faced thug. The fight includes hints of story developments to come, with Widow inferring that someone is pulling Taskmaster's strings, indicating he's "not the brains of the operation." As she delivers the final blow on her foe, Widow quips, "Next time, take better notes." After this, the helicarrier explodes, presumably killing Captain America and many innocents, at which point the demo ends. As exciting as this prologue is, it raises just as many questions as answers, especially since multiplayer – one of the game's main selling points – was conspicuously absent. Likewise, it's unknown whether or not the every mission will resemble this early section. Will the whole game emphasize fast-paced transitions between combat and cutscene, with little in the way of exploration or downtime? Additionally, there was no talk of microtransactions, DLC, or character customization. In terms of storytelling, the main quest picks up five years after the "A-Day" tragedy, so the tone of this demo does not necessarily represent the rest of the game, which may prove more somber in tone. It's still too early to tell. While Marvel's Avengers has a lot of potential to destroy expectations in 2020, and this first look at live gameplay proved extremely promising, it's too early to tell if it will be one of 2020's must-play titles when it launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  8. When the first teaser trailer for Marvel's Avengers debuted back in 2017, the game presented itself as a mysterious enigma, with the main selling point being the inclusion of Earth's Mightiest Heroes together in an action-packed video game from the developers behind Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When the first gameplay trailer appeared at Square Enix's E3 2019 press conference, the game remained mysterious, though at least would-be fans were presented with a taste of what Marvel's Avengers will offer to players. For better or worse, after sitting through the E3 show floor demo at Square Enix's booth, Marvel's Avengers is still a wild card, which me feeling cautiously optimistic regarding what the game will offer when it launches next year. Although a hands-off experience, the E3 2019 demo for Marvel's Avengers did feature live gameplay of the level shown in the trailer. This is almost definitely the prologue of the game, and features all five of the currently confirmed cast (Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow) kicking butt when Taskmaster and a mysterious group of mercenaries attack an event celebrating the opening of a West Coast Avengers headquarters. The demo kicks off with Iron Man and Thor flying towards the commotion on the bridge before splitting up so Thor can handle a group of bad guys trying to cause trouble nearby. The game seamlessly transitions from cutscene to gameplay as Thor begins taking down the mercs while quipping one-liners about his godly superiority over meager humans. The combat itself looks impressive as Thor's hammer strikes send enemies ragdolling dozens of feet through the air, a violent spectacle which really sells the true power of Marvel's God of Thunder. Eventually, Iron Man shows up and starts taking on goons himself, though, of the five Avengers shown thus far, Tony Stark feels the least exciting, at least based on this early look at his melee combos. In the MCU, Iron Man is the type of character who takes down his foes with a single strike, and the sight of this particular hero using fisticuff strikes against regular enemies just doesn't ring true to the spirit of the character. His ranged attacks, on the other hand, are as explosive and efficient as one would expect. As the fight moves to the Golden Gate Bridge, The Incredible Hulk joins the fray. Dr. Bruce Banner jumps from the Quinjet without first removing his expensive-looking shirt (those things don't grow on trees, Bruce!) and morphs into the Hulk as he lands. The E3 trailer skips the actual morphing moment, but it looks fantastic in action. Hulk's gameplay consists of a mix of Quick Time Events and hand-to-hand fighting as he moves to varying sections of the crumbling bridge, taking out bad guys with visceral ferocity. One noteworthy combat move has the not-so-jolly green giant picking up an enemy in each hand before clapping them together in a comically brutal display of strength. The action segues to the helicarrier, in which Captain America tries to repel an attack. Visually, Cap is the most distinct of The Avengers, with his default outfit sporting a tactical, "urban combat" look which helps make the character feel distinct from other iterations of Steve Rogers. His moveset revolves around throwing his shield around the battlefield, kicking it back once as it returns to him, and using that window to close the distance and take down enemies with grappling takedowns and powerful punches. Finally, Black Widow takes on Taskmaster in a one-on-one boss battle interspersed with Quick Time Events. Though the QTE segments look rudimentary and almost archaic, the fight itself does a good job of showing off the personality of Widow and Taskmaster, who quip back and forth about the villain's "photographic reflexes," which allow him to repel any attack after he sees it performed. Indeed, when Black Widow tries to repeat a combat move on the mercenary leader, he is able to easily defend itself, forcing her to use every combat tool at her disposal to fight the skull-faced thug. The fight includes hints of story developments to come, with Widow inferring that someone is pulling Taskmaster's strings, indicating he's "not the brains of the operation." As she delivers the final blow on her foe, Widow quips, "Next time, take better notes." After this, the helicarrier explodes, presumably killing Captain America and many innocents, at which point the demo ends. As exciting as this prologue is, it raises just as many questions as answers, especially since multiplayer – one of the game's main selling points – was conspicuously absent. Likewise, it's unknown whether or not the every mission will resemble this early section. Will the whole game emphasize fast-paced transitions between combat and cutscene, with little in the way of exploration or downtime? Additionally, there was no talk of microtransactions, DLC, or character customization. In terms of storytelling, the main quest picks up five years after the "A-Day" tragedy, so the tone of this demo does not necessarily represent the rest of the game, which may prove more somber in tone. It's still too early to tell. While Marvel's Avengers has a lot of potential to destroy expectations in 2020, and this first look at live gameplay proved extremely promising, it's too early to tell if it will be one of 2020's must-play titles when it launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  9. What Rainbow Six Siege did for PvP, Rainbow Six Quarantine aims to do with PvE. This promise was made by Ubisoft during their E3 2019 press conference. There are two kinds of people in the world: PvP players, who love fighting their friends and strangers competitively, and PvE players, who love teaming up and taking down hordes of enemies with old friends and new acquaintances alike. With Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft proved their worth as a publisher who supports their games over time, turning a middling – but promising – squad-based shooter into one of the biggest competitive multiplayer games in the world. Even though many gamers continue to lament the untimely cancellation of Rainbow 6: Patriots, it's impossible to deny that Rainbow Six Siege is truly something special. Now, Ubisoft looks to turn their attention to the cooperative PvE space with Rainbow Six Quarantine. Though we know little about the upcoming co-op shooter, Ubisoft's introductory teaser trailer showed Quarantine will involve some kind of viral infection which can affect players. Presumably, said virus also serves as the source of the hordes of enemies which are required in any type of co-op shooter. Rainbow Six Quarantine features teams of three, a popular fireteam size in co-op games (see Destiny, another extremely popular multiplayer title), though not much is known beyond that, as no actual gameplay was shown during Ubisoft's E3 presentation. Back in early 2018, Rainbow Six Siege experimented with PvE action in Operation Chimera, a limited-time game mode which pitted Siege's operators against an alien threat. While it's unknown what cues – if any – Quarantine will take from Operation Chimera, it's nice to see Ubisoft experimenting with the Tom Clancy brand, even if die hard fans of the old-school Rainbow Six games scoff and roll their eyes at the very thought of extra-terrestrial threats in the ultra-realistic universe of the Tom Clancy games. At the very least, Rainbow Six Siege has proven popular and enduring enough for the brand to have earned the right to branch out in whatever way they want, no matter how unexpected. Despite being nearly four years old, Siege remains insanely popular to this day, and if Ubisoft can pull off a similar stunt using a cooperative, rather than a competitive, template, then Rainbow Six Quarantine has the potential to be a preeminent great multiplayer experience for years to come. Rainbow Six Quarantine is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime in 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games View full article
  10. What Rainbow Six Siege did for PvP, Rainbow Six Quarantine aims to do with PvE. This promise was made by Ubisoft during their E3 2019 press conference. There are two kinds of people in the world: PvP players, who love fighting their friends and strangers competitively, and PvE players, who love teaming up and taking down hordes of enemies with old friends and new acquaintances alike. With Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft proved their worth as a publisher who supports their games over time, turning a middling – but promising – squad-based shooter into one of the biggest competitive multiplayer games in the world. Even though many gamers continue to lament the untimely cancellation of Rainbow 6: Patriots, it's impossible to deny that Rainbow Six Siege is truly something special. Now, Ubisoft looks to turn their attention to the cooperative PvE space with Rainbow Six Quarantine. Though we know little about the upcoming co-op shooter, Ubisoft's introductory teaser trailer showed Quarantine will involve some kind of viral infection which can affect players. Presumably, said virus also serves as the source of the hordes of enemies which are required in any type of co-op shooter. Rainbow Six Quarantine features teams of three, a popular fireteam size in co-op games (see Destiny, another extremely popular multiplayer title), though not much is known beyond that, as no actual gameplay was shown during Ubisoft's E3 presentation. Back in early 2018, Rainbow Six Siege experimented with PvE action in Operation Chimera, a limited-time game mode which pitted Siege's operators against an alien threat. While it's unknown what cues – if any – Quarantine will take from Operation Chimera, it's nice to see Ubisoft experimenting with the Tom Clancy brand, even if die hard fans of the old-school Rainbow Six games scoff and roll their eyes at the very thought of extra-terrestrial threats in the ultra-realistic universe of the Tom Clancy games. At the very least, Rainbow Six Siege has proven popular and enduring enough for the brand to have earned the right to branch out in whatever way they want, no matter how unexpected. Despite being nearly four years old, Siege remains insanely popular to this day, and if Ubisoft can pull off a similar stunt using a cooperative, rather than a competitive, template, then Rainbow Six Quarantine has the potential to be a preeminent great multiplayer experience for years to come. Rainbow Six Quarantine is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime in 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games
  11. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs series follows a world where private security companies have all but monopolized public safety, leading to increased surveillance by private companies and zero expectations of privacy. The first two games, set in Chicago and San Francisco, respectively, feature hackers who seek to undermine the evil corporations and their totalitarian aspirations while simultaneously following their own, more personal, quests. In Watch Dogs: Legion, the centralized protagonist has been replaced by the game's main hook: a veritable army of freedom fighters who make up an ensemble cast of leading characters. In the not too distant future, London is every conspiracy theorist's worst nightmare come to life. Spy drones litter the sky, surveillance cameras dot every street corner, and a single corporate conglomerate oversees the entirety of the city's existence. Ubisoft's E3 presentation opened with the player character, a bald Brit named Ian Robshaw, communicating with a formless, but charming, Artificial Intelligence named Bagley. The entire demo looks like a real-time play session, and As Ian walks down the street, it's clear this isn't the London we all know and love. In the world of Watch Dogs, the city has become something of a cyberpunk dystopia; bright neon lights and holographic projections offer a heightened technological aesthetic which pairs nicely with the oppressive surveillance state the city has become. Ian and Bagley are searching for an expert on the city's high-tech drones, and they find one in the form of a Jimmy Shaw, a young man who winds up getting into a fight with London's heavily militarized private police force. Ian puts on a creepy skull mask and rescues the hacker, making himself the target. An exciting chase ensues, in which an armed drone wounds Ian to the point where a choice appears on screen: surrender, or keep fighting. Ian opts to keep fighting, activating optical camouflage to buy enough time to hijack a taxi and speed off. Unfortunately, the private army follows, and Ian is ultimately shot to death after crashing his stolen vehicle. Instead of a game over screen, however, the game goes to a menu where the player can choose from another DedSec agent. From here, the demo features Helen, a senior citizen and retired assassin with an infectiously devil-may-care demeanor, and Naomi Brooke, a no-nonsense operative who completes the mission, recruiting Jimmy to DedSec and lamenting Ian's death with the grateful young revolutionary. There are no continues in Watch Dogs: Legion; when a character dies, they don't come back. This roguelike element is almost entirely unheard of in the AAA open-world space. It's hard to imagine the game will have unique dialogue for all of the potential player characters in every single cutscene, but this provocative early look certainly earned our attention. If Ubisoft can follow through on the ideas brought forth in this first look, then Watch Dogs: Legion could be one of the most exciting and ambitious games of the generation. Watch Dogs: Legion releases March 5, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Google Stadia. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  12. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs series follows a world where private security companies have all but monopolized public safety, leading to increased surveillance by private companies and zero expectations of privacy. The first two games, set in Chicago and San Francisco, respectively, feature hackers who seek to undermine the evil corporations and their totalitarian aspirations while simultaneously following their own, more personal, quests. In Watch Dogs: Legion, the centralized protagonist has been replaced by the game's main hook: a veritable army of freedom fighters who make up an ensemble cast of leading characters. In the not too distant future, London is every conspiracy theorist's worst nightmare come to life. Spy drones litter the sky, surveillance cameras dot every street corner, and a single corporate conglomerate oversees the entirety of the city's existence. Ubisoft's E3 presentation opened with the player character, a bald Brit named Ian Robshaw, communicating with a formless, but charming, Artificial Intelligence named Bagley. The entire demo looks like a real-time play session, and As Ian walks down the street, it's clear this isn't the London we all know and love. In the world of Watch Dogs, the city has become something of a cyberpunk dystopia; bright neon lights and holographic projections offer a heightened technological aesthetic which pairs nicely with the oppressive surveillance state the city has become. Ian and Bagley are searching for an expert on the city's high-tech drones, and they find one in the form of a Jimmy Shaw, a young man who winds up getting into a fight with London's heavily militarized private police force. Ian puts on a creepy skull mask and rescues the hacker, making himself the target. An exciting chase ensues, in which an armed drone wounds Ian to the point where a choice appears on screen: surrender, or keep fighting. Ian opts to keep fighting, activating optical camouflage to buy enough time to hijack a taxi and speed off. Unfortunately, the private army follows, and Ian is ultimately shot to death after crashing his stolen vehicle. Instead of a game over screen, however, the game goes to a menu where the player can choose from another DedSec agent. From here, the demo features Helen, a senior citizen and retired assassin with an infectiously devil-may-care demeanor, and Naomi Brooke, a no-nonsense operative who completes the mission, recruiting Jimmy to DedSec and lamenting Ian's death with the grateful young revolutionary. There are no continues in Watch Dogs: Legion; when a character dies, they don't come back. This roguelike element is almost entirely unheard of in the AAA open-world space. It's hard to imagine the game will have unique dialogue for all of the potential player characters in every single cutscene, but this provocative early look certainly earned our attention. If Ubisoft can follow through on the ideas brought forth in this first look, then Watch Dogs: Legion could be one of the most exciting and ambitious games of the generation. Watch Dogs: Legion releases March 5, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Google Stadia. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  13. Although Final Fantasy VII stole show at Square Enix's E3 2019 presentation, the publisher also announced a high definition port of the beloved Final Fantasy VIII, due out later this year. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered completes the trilogy of mainline PlayStation Final Fantasy titles playable on modern consoles. It came as something of a surprise when VII and IX were announced for PlayStation 4 (and later, other current-gen systems), while no news emerged regarding VIII. At long last, that unfortunate oversight has been noted and rectified with the announcement of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. Initially released in 1999 for the PlayStation, Final Fantasy VIII earned a legion of fans for its innovative Junction system, which lessened the importance of traditional JRPG level grinding by instead focusing on linking magic to characters' stats, allowing for greater customization of the roster's strengths and weaknesses. The story of Final Fantasy VIII divided audiences with its intimate focus on the whirlwind romance between protagonists Squall and Rinoa, with game-changing plot twists that would define other titles in the series being swiftly overlooked by the characters who simply have different priorities in their lives. Final Fantasy VIII's bold storytelling was controversial to the point of derision, but now allows the game to stand out from the pack in an ever-growing landscape of JRPG titles. While Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX both received minor visual enhancements in their HD ports, Square Enix has clearly gone an extra mile with Final Fantasy VIII, with brand new textures replacing the old, pixelated versions, allowing characters to appear clear and expressive in battle. Subtle, yet profound, the changes cause character models to practically pop off the screen; it still looks like a classic PlayStation game, but the prettiest and cleanest HD version of a PlayStation game one could possibly imagine. As of this writing, it's unclear as to whether Final Fantasy VIII Remastered will receive any other enhancements over the original game; the HD ports of VII and IX both benefited from cheats which allowed players to skip random encounters, instantly max out stats, and triple the game's speed. It would be reasonable to expect Final Fantasy VIII to follow suit, but nothing is confirmed yet. Either way, fans of the classic PlayStation era of Final Fantasy will be overjoyed to have all three timeless classics downloaded to their gaming platform of choice, finally playable in glorious high definition. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered releases later in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  14. Although Final Fantasy VII stole show at Square Enix's E3 2019 presentation, the publisher also announced a high definition port of the beloved Final Fantasy VIII, due out later this year. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered completes the trilogy of mainline PlayStation Final Fantasy titles playable on modern consoles. It came as something of a surprise when VII and IX were announced for PlayStation 4 (and later, other current-gen systems), while no news emerged regarding VIII. At long last, that unfortunate oversight has been noted and rectified with the announcement of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. Initially released in 1999 for the PlayStation, Final Fantasy VIII earned a legion of fans for its innovative Junction system, which lessened the importance of traditional JRPG level grinding by instead focusing on linking magic to characters' stats, allowing for greater customization of the roster's strengths and weaknesses. The story of Final Fantasy VIII divided audiences with its intimate focus on the whirlwind romance between protagonists Squall and Rinoa, with game-changing plot twists that would define other titles in the series being swiftly overlooked by the characters who simply have different priorities in their lives. Final Fantasy VIII's bold storytelling was controversial to the point of derision, but now allows the game to stand out from the pack in an ever-growing landscape of JRPG titles. While Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX both received minor visual enhancements in their HD ports, Square Enix has clearly gone an extra mile with Final Fantasy VIII, with brand new textures replacing the old, pixelated versions, allowing characters to appear clear and expressive in battle. Subtle, yet profound, the changes cause character models to practically pop off the screen; it still looks like a classic PlayStation game, but the prettiest and cleanest HD version of a PlayStation game one could possibly imagine. As of this writing, it's unclear as to whether Final Fantasy VIII Remastered will receive any other enhancements over the original game; the HD ports of VII and IX both benefited from cheats which allowed players to skip random encounters, instantly max out stats, and triple the game's speed. It would be reasonable to expect Final Fantasy VIII to follow suit, but nothing is confirmed yet. Either way, fans of the classic PlayStation era of Final Fantasy will be overjoyed to have all three timeless classics downloaded to their gaming platform of choice, finally playable in glorious high definition. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered releases later in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  15. Back in 2017, Square Enix and Marvel announced their collaboration on a game based on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers. After over two years of total silence, E3 2019 saw the debut of Marvel's Avengers, an online multiplayer co-op action game with a narrative focus and a unique take on the world of Marvel's comic book universe. Although Square Enix's presentation on Marvel's Avengers failed to show off any actual gameplay, the trailer was built using the in-game engine. The visuals look spectacular, with a realistic style clearly inspired by the MCU, but with its own unique takes on the signature heroes which will surely cause discussions within the fandom; for example, Captain America wears a tactical outfit complete with a bulky flak jacket, giving him a more brutish appearance than the Chris Evans version of the character. Marvel's Avengers tells an intriguing story which looks to set up a brand new status quo for these iconic characters. The first trailer for the game (seen below) shows the events of "A-Day," which sees the destruction of the team's custom helicarrier, causing the death of numerous civilians and – apparently – Captain America himself. Five years later, The Avengers have long since disbanded, but are forced to reassemble when a new threat presents itself. One notable mystery teased in the presentation regards the origin of the helicarrier's destruction; was it doomed by a miscalculation from Tony Stark, or sabotaged by an outside force? Despite the apparent death of Captain America, there must be more to this part of the story, since the star-spangled man remains one of five playable characters confirmed by developers Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, who had previously collaborated on 2018's Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Alongside Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, and Thor round out the main cast revealed during the presentation, though a teaser at the end did suggest Hank Pym (Ant-Man) plays a role in the game, though it remains unclear if he will be a playable Avenger. As for future content updates, the team promised that playable Avengers will be free, and there will be no lootboxes or pay-to-win microtransactions. They also teased early beta access for PlayStation 4 players and further exclusive "surprises" to be revealed at a later date. Could this include a potential crossover with Marvel's Spider-Man? We can only speculate. While it's easy to get excited for Marvel's Avengers, the E3 presentation left more questions than answers. We still haven't seen gameplay, how multiplayer works compared to playing solo, and how much content will be available at launch; while the absence of lootboxes is much appreciated, the promise of an "ever-expanding" experience can't help but call to mind the veritable graveyard of "live service" titles which were lambasted for a dearth of content in the early part of their life cycles. No matter what, the promise of a big-budget Avengers video game is simply too good to ignore. More information about the ambitious title will surely trickle out as E3 2019 progresses, but perhaps the biggest and most exciting announcement regarding this mysterious game came in the form of a release date: Marvel's Avengers hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
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