The next Need for Speed game delayed as Criterion shifts focus to Battlefield

Need for Speed

The next Need for Speed was originally touted for a 2021 release. However, following the purchase of Codemasters, Electronic Arts has delayed it until 2022. Criterion Games were originally responsible for its development but will now pivot into co-developing the next Battlefield instead.

EA was hoping to get Need for Speed out earlier to hit its one racing game per year quota. However, the acquisition of British publisher Codemasters has freed up time for Criterion Games. As racing game specialists Codemasters will likely release F1 2021 to fulfil that quota instead.

Change of approach

Need for Speed 2021 delayed gameplay Heat

EA chief studios officer Laura Miele recently spoke to Polygon about the decision. According to Miele, Need for Speed is “owned,” by Criterion meaning that it gets to make all of the final decisions. From design choices to release schedules, EA is trusting it to call the shots.

This change of approach does make some sense given the history of Need for Speed. Although it started life as the premier arcade racing game, recent years haven’t been kind to it. For many, the last great game in the franchise was Hot Pursuit, released back in 2010.

Funnily enough, Hot Pursuit was also the last mainline Need for Speed game to be developed by Criterion. Although it did also produce the Most Wanted remake which was unfortunately rushed and as a result lacked feature. Hopefully EA sticks to its word and gives Criterion the time and freedom to make the games it wants to.

After all, history suggests doing so is a good idea. Criterion Games has been responsible for some of the greatest arcade racers ever made. Anyone who grew up playing 2000s racing games surely has fond memories of Burnout 3: Takedown. If the new Need for Speed can capture even a fraction of Takedown’s personality it is sure to be something special.

New Cuphead costumes coming to Fall Guys later this week

Fall Guys Cuphead skins promo

What do you get when you combine two of the most successful indie games of recent times? A Fall Guys and Cuphead collaboration of course! Fall Guys developer Mediatonic confirmed that new Cuphead costumes are coming to its hit platformer next week.

You’ll be able to use both Cuphead and Mugman, the two main characters in Cuphead. Cuphead will be available for purchase on February 24 whilst Mugman will follow on February 27. Each will cost a total of ten crowns each so now’s as good a time as ever to win some games. Also, there’s a unique emote coming with the costumes that will cost five crowns.

Fall Guys and Cuphead collide

Fall Guys Cuphead gameplay steam press image

Although unexpected, this collab is much appreciated. Over the course of the last decade or so few indie games have had as big an impact as these two. Cuphead was so promising that it managed to attract the attention of technology giant Microsoft, who later purchased the license.

Similarly, Fall Guys came out of nowhere in August of last year and took the industry by storm. It’s hard to imagine that the minds behind the visual novel Hatoful Boyfriend would go on to create 2020’s most popular title. And now these two titans of the indie game world are coming together, albeit only for some cute cosmetics.

Some players are criticizing the pricing of these new cosmetics. Just to be clear, crowns are not accessible through microtransactions. Instead, you earn them by either progressing through the free battle pass or winning games.

But for many players, earning enough to purchase both costumes and an emote could be difficult. After all, not everyone has enough free time to grind. However, given the lack of pay to win options in Fall Guys, I’d consider this a fair and exciting event for any Cuphead fans.

GTA Vice City fan project shutdown by Rockstar and Take-Two

Over the last few years, a small group of Grand Theft Auto fans have been working on a passion project. Their goal was to reverse engineer both GTA 3 and GTA Vice City to improve the experience. This project would have seen the classic open world games receive support for ray-tracing and port potential to new platforms.

But Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two, have a different idea. The corporate giant recently hit the fan project with a DMCA, effectively shutting down the project for good. Posted on GitHub the DMCA prevents further work being done on the project without risking a full-blown lawsuit.

A developer’s worst nightmare

GTA Vice City gameplay plane mission

Developer aap spoke to Eurogamer about the claim. As of right now, he isn’t one hundred percent sure if It was Take-Two or just a troll. However, until the situation is cleared up work on the GTA Vice City rework cannot continue.

Aap also admitted that he and his team saw this coming and that he tried to “stay under the radar,” to avoid action. He had assumed that he might get away with it as a similar Super Mario 64 project had been on GitHub for a while.

But apparently Take-Two are more brutal when it comes to fan remakes than even Nintendo. It also filed a lawsuit against indie developer Johnathon Wyckoff in 2019 for his attempted Red Dead Redemption remaster. But given that Wyckoff was working on a more recent game, it was understandable. Exercising that same lack of forgiveness for a GTA Vice City remake of all things seems excessive.

But Take-Two does have the legal right to take down the project. At the end of the day, it owns the Grand Theft Auto license. And if an unofficial project is using that license without their permission, trademark laws are on its side. Hopefully, Take-Two reconsiders its actions and the GTA Vice City remake can continue. But I wouldn’t hold your breath given the company’s history.

Zombies could be invading Warzone Season 2, as hinted at in new teaser

Warzone Zombies

Raven Software is teasing a Zombies mode for Warzone Season 2. Expected to drop in the next few weeks, Season 2 of Warzone will bring with it a brand-new battle pass as usual. But that might not be all fans have to look forward to.

A new teaser has been found in the Hospital part of Verdansk. In Hospital there is a machine which, when hovered over, prompts the user to “ZAI/Activate Zombies.” Interestingly, this machine only spawns in the Warzone Rumble spin-off mode. It cannot be seen in the main battle royale game modes. The exact significance of this is unclear but it seems to hint at a Zombies related Warzone update.

Are zombies on the way?

Warzone Plunder HDR gameplay

The machine in question has been lifted directly out of the official Zombies game mode of Black Ops Cold War. In Treyarch’s popular first-person shooter, it’s used to gain rewards for completing challenges. So even though it’s useless right now, this could be used for a similar purpose in the future.

Furthermore, that’s not the only teaser players have discovered. When entering certain areas of the Rebirth map, your screen can become distorted. Most players were only able to make this happen for a few seconds. But one Reddit post showed an extended version that includes some Russian dialogue.

The dialogue itself is between a dispatch communicator and a pilot. The pilot requests to take his ship “Vodyanoy,” into Verdansk. The dispatch communicator approves the request and confirms that his cargo is secure for travel.

Both of these teasers happening at the same time is no accident. In the near future Warzone will be receiving some kind of Zombies expansion. It could be an entirely new game mode or an override of the existing battle royale. Regardless, I have a feeling that something exciting is on the way.

Yooka-Laylee developer to transition into game publishing this year

Playtonic games publishing yooka-laylee

You’re probably familiar with Playtonic Games. The UK based developer is best known for releasing 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee back in 2017. Despite receiving a mixed critical response at launch, many gamers hold a generally fond view of it. And now its developers are ready capitalise on that popularity and expand.

From this year onward Playtonic Games are set to become Playtonic Friends. This new brand has been established with the goal of transitioning into game publishing. The transition has already begun with three development studios being confirmed to be already working on various projects under the eye of Playtonic Friends.

Moving up in the world

yooka-laylee gameplay

The three announced studios are Awe Interactive, Fabraz, and okidokico. Awe Interactive were responsible for the rhythm roguelike Bullets Per Minute. Fabraz developed Slime-san and okidokico released OK Golf in 2017. These are all small indie studios that will likely use this opportunity to work on larger projects.

Furthermore, Playtonic Games has confirmed that at least two of the games in development are related to Yooka-Laylee. However, it’s unclear if that means they are sequels, spin-offs, or just feature similar characters. For the time being Playtonic Games is keeping quiet on any further details.

Despite this change fans don’t need to worry about the future of Playtonic Games itself. The development studio part of Playtonic Friends will continue to operate. In fact, in an interview with Eurogamer studio head Gavin Price has claimed his team is “going to be increasing our development size.

When pushed for an idea of what Playtonic Games is working on, Price revealed why he is so hesitant to talk. According to him, announcing a game too early can “spectacularly backfire.” A fair point given the fate of games like Overwatch 2 that have its fanbase agitated from the long wait. Regardless, it should be fun to see what the minds behind Yooka-Laylee have planned for the future.

Ninja might be quitting Fortnite due to stream snipers

Ninja to quit Fortnite custom skin promo

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is one of the most successful and well-known internet personalities of all time. And amongst his many achievements, his feats on Fortnite are what he’s best known for. However, his recent return to Epic’s hit battle royale did not end well. It went so badly that Ninja is now considering quitting Fortnite altogether.

He recently streamed his return to Fortnite but the entire session was plagued by stream snipers. Stream sniping is a relatively new concept that involves viewers deliberately queueing into their favourite streamer’s games. Once in then will track down the streamer and do everything possible to ruin their experience. It’s been an ongoing problem with Fortnite for years.

Pushing Ninja over the edge

Ninja playing fortnite twitch

And it’s clear that Ninja has had more than enough of stream snipers ruining his gameplay. On the stream Tyler let his frustration out and made it clear to his viewers what he thinks about stream sniping.

Amongst other more colourful language, he describes the snipers as “little kids,” and “clout-chasing losers.” Ninja seems particularly irritated by the flexing culture stream snipers use to justify their actions. These individuals will upload clips of them killing popular streamers in order to receive upvotes on Reddit and praise from friends.

The stream ended with Ninja vowing to never play Fortnite again. Even though it’s been a long time since it was his main game, it’d still be sad to see the Fortnite community lose such an important member. Especially given that a large reason the battle royale is so popular today is due to him.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if Ninja stays true to his vow. As of late he has primarily been playing a mix of League of Legends and Valorant. If his streams are anything to go by, he doesn’t seem too bothered by the idea of cutting Fortnite out entirely. If I was to guess, I wouldn’t expect to see Fortnite on his channel again anytime soon.

Blizzard won’t be releasing Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4 in 2021

With Blizzcon right around the corner many gamers are excited to see what Blizzard has to offer. But if the American games publisher’s financial report is anything to by, we could be waiting a while. The report states that despite making “significant progress,” on these titles they should not be expected in 2021.

Both Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 were first announced way back at BlizzCon 2019. And yet since updates on either game have been extremely limited. Even worse, the original Overwatch has hardly been touched outside of new skins and a single deathmatch map. If players have to wait over twelve months longer for a sequel then that’s far from ideal.

What is Blizzard thinking?

Blizzard Overwatch 2 cinematic shot

I’m sure in an ideal world Blizzard could greenlight Overwatch 2 for a 2021 release. However, the simple truth is that the game is most likely nowhere near ready. I doubt either Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2 were even announced when they were supposed to be.

Those with good memories will probably remember the state Blizzard were in leading up to Blizzcon 2019. It had just handed out penalties to several pro players and casters for promoting Taiwanese independence in an official livestream. After the Chinese government pushed it to do something, it resorted to banning everyone involved.

There was an uproar against Blizzard for what many perceived as an abuse of power. Not only that but by making this move it had effectively told the world the CCP were more important than its own community. Hardly a good move from a PR perspective.

Considering this, it likely pushed the announcement of Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 forward to steady the tide. Many gamers at the time warmed up to Blizzard after the announcements due to the hype of getting to play such anticipated sequels. But over a year later and we’re left wondering if it was the right move after all. Either way, it looks as though we’ll be waiting until 2022 for the next big Blizzard release.

RIOT is cracking down on Valorant cheaters and their teammates

Despite its industry leading Vanguard anti-cheat system, Valorant has a hacker problem. RIOT’s skill-based hero shooter launched back June and has been performing well since. And yet the American based publisher has had a hard time slowing down the ongoing cheating. But it does have a new plan to address this.

In a new development post, RIOT outlined its new strategy to counteract cheating. Going forward, all players who opt to party up with a proven cheater will also receive punishment. The biggest punishment RIOT is prepared to hard out is a 90-day penalty for playing with cheaters. This means that any accomplices won’t be able to play ranked for three months once caught.

Valorant cheaters getting busted

Valorant cheaters gameplay footage

At face value that ban may seem a little steep but it’s been chosen for good reason. Many players who choose to party up with cheaters are doing so for short-term gain. Even though they are aware the cheater won’t last long, they can still earn easy skill rating by playing with them. It’s currently unclear if you can get punished for unknowingly teaming up with a cheater.

Furthermore, many cheaters sell their services to players looking to climb the ranks quickly. From RIOT’s point of view, it doesn’t want an illegitimate real world trading market being attached to one of its products.

Equally, this Valorant update will see players affected by cheating have their rating re-calibrated. This should both demotivate accomplices and lower the frustration of legitimate players having their games ruined. Finally, placement games now have a skill rating cap making it harder to cheaters to climb up to the top ranks as fast.

Regardless of how well this update works out, RIOT is showing good intentions. Many other AAA shooters like Warzone have struggled with stopping cheaters. Arguably no product on the market has an anti-cheat system as complicated as Valorant. And if RIOT keeps up this pace, we could be seeing the first game ever made where cheating just isn’t viable.

Roger Craig Smith departs Sonic the Hedgehog voice role after ten years

Sonic voice actor quit Roger craig smith

There aren’t many characters more iconic in gaming than Sonic the Hedgehog. SEGA’s long running legendary mascot has led the Japanese tech giant through four console generations. And throughout those generations he has had many different voices. But it’s Roger Craig Smith who’s responsible for the voice we know best.

After ten years of voice acting Sonic, Smith is calling it a day. The talented voice actor described his time working for SEGA in a positive light. Smith states that he had an “amazing run,” and felt it was an “honour,” to voice Sonic.

The voice of Roger Craig Smith

Sonic Roger craig smith picture

Smith has taken on a ton of iconic roles over his fifteen-year career. Whilst he is probably best known for voicing Sonic in just about every major release since 2010, his CV is not limited to just talking hedgehogs. Some of his other significant roles include Ezio Auditore and Chris Redfield.

The Michigan born voice actor has also lent his voice to other media. Anime fans in particular might be familiar with his portrayals of Deidara from Naruto and Shinji Hirako from Bleach. And his portfolio doesn’t stop there. Roger Craig Smith has also contributed to several western productions with his most notable role being Captain America in several Marvel films.

Whoever has to fill his boots is in for a hard job. SEGA has yet to confirm a replacement with auditions presumably still being planned out. The only hint to a successor we have is that Panamount’s Sonic film saw the blue hedgehog voiced by Ben Schwartz.

It’s possible Schwartz will pivot into the full-time video game-oriented role too. Although unlike Roger Craig Smith, Schwartz has next to no voice acting experience in the games industry. Due to this I think it’s more likely SEGA will seek out a different long-term replacement.

RuneScape developer Jagex has been acquired for $530 million by US group

When it comes to developers few are thrown around as often as Jagex. The British developer of popular MMORPG RuneScape have been acquired yet again. This time around it’s a US based private equity firm called The Carlyle Group. It’s thought that the acquisition cost the group just over $530 million.

Originally, Jagex was owned by its founders, the Gower brothers. These brothers then sold their shares of Jagex to a group of US investors in 2012. Just four years later the British developer was once again sold, this time to Chinese group Fukong. Finally, just last year MacArthur Fortune Holding LLC acquired them. Although the latter is thought to have been a shell company of the original Chinese owners.

Another new owner

RuneScape Jagex death's domain

Truth be told, it’s not surprising Jagex gets moved around so often. It has recently recorded record highs of revenue with 2019 alone bringing in over £110 million. For shareholders those number provide a great way to make quick return on an investment. At least unlike the last take over, Jagex’s staff seem more positive about The Carlyle Group.

Jagex CEO Phil Mansell commented that he is “so proud,” that his company gets the chance to work with Carlyle. Also, he expects this to create further opportunities to make “great content,” for RuneScape and Old School RuneScape.

Meanwhile, Carlyle’s managing director Patrick McCarter believes Jagex’s market position makes it a prime candidate to benefit from an ever-growing industry. McCarter continues on to specify that his group sees the MMORPG as a “particularly attractive,” sub-sector.

And he may have a point. Although there was a period where mobile gaming made MMOs less profitable, that time has passed. Now the world’s biggest MMORPGs are integrating themselves into more platforms. Case in point, RuneScape itself recently became available on both Steam and mobile. Where this moves leaves Jagex is to be seen.