TIME Video Games

This Is What Happens When Jimmy Fallon Plays Goldeneye 007 with Pierce Brosnan

Hint: It does't go well for Mr. Brosnan.

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Want to see Jimmy Fallon square off with James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan (playing as his digital Bond-ian self) in Nintendo’s Goldeneye 007? Wish granted for roughly two minutes if you click the video above.

It’s weird watching someone like Brosnan, who I’m guessing isn’t a routine gamer, play a game like Goldeneye 007 on national TV. And that’s the point: It gives you little sense of what it’s like to play a fan-beloved game plenty would call Rare’s magnum opus, but then you’re watching to see how merciless a relatively serious gamer like Fallon’s going to be (relatively merciless), whether Brosnan’s going to be a good sport about it (a very good one), and what the audience is going to make of Fallon’s trademark sputtering and faux-obsequiousness.

Why was Brosnan on Fallon last night? To talk up his new film, The November Man, a spy flick about an ex-CIA agent drawn into the thick of an agency coverup.

TIME Video Games

Take a Gander at Swing Copters, the Next Game from Flappy Bird’s Creator

Instead of tapping the screen to flap sideways, you tap the screen to propel yourself up.

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The creator of Flappy Bird‘s next game is upon us, and it’s called Swing Copters. It’s another single-tap game from designer Dong Nguyen that’ll arrive this Thursday, August 21. It’s free to play with ads, or if you like, Nguyen will let you pay $0.99 to remove them.

In the game, you play a little bug-eyed dude wearing a Tweedledee propeller hat. Above you lie open spaces between girder-like platforms that jut from the screen’s edges. Tap the screen and up you go, slewing to one side or another so that you have to course-correct continuously.

On either side of the opening hang hammers that threaten your passage, swinging to and fro like blunt pendulums. The hammers seem like the later stages of certain Flappy Bird vamps, specifically even more insanely difficult versions of that game where the pipes moved up and down.

TouchArcade laid hands on the game ahead of its rollout, putting up a video illustrating what it looks like in action (that’s it above). The object is braincell-stupefyingly simple: clear gates, then trump your gates-passed score, just like your pipes-passed one in Flappy Bird. There’s a medal system, too, presumably bronze, silver or gold, though the guy in the video never manages to clear enough gates to clinch one.

It does look harder than Flappy Bird, but then try flipping your screen on its side as you watch the video, and I suspect you’ll agree that it looks an awful lot like a vertical remaster of Flappy Bird.

TIME Video Games

Reddit Comes to Xbox One First with ReddX App

It may not be the first reddit app you can browse on a TV, but it is the first one you can access through a dedicated games console.

I’m not sure a big-screen TV’s the most natural home for a glorified bulletin board, but if you’ve always wanted to browse vast fields of reddit text on your TV, Microsoft has just the thing for you: an app called ReddX for the Xbox One (as well as Xbox SmartGlass), which it describes as “the first reddit app for the TV.”

You’re going to wind up in a semantic debate with the “first for TV” thing, since not all consoles connect to TVs, and we’ve been able to screen-share whole libraries of reddit apps from mobile devices for ages. But this is the first I’m aware of someone designing a reddit app specifically for a games console, so give Microsoft props for getting out in front of that.

ReddX, available today, lets U.S. and Canadian Xbox One owners browse or zoom in on text, images and videos, as well as tap to upvote, downvote, or comment on threads, just as you can through a browser. You can optionally save images you like to your profile, or make it the ReddX app’s background. And in addition to the Xbox One controller (with or without text keypad), ReddX will take input from the Xbox One media remote as well as Xbox SmartGlass via a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Microsoft says the app can be snapped to your TV’s side while you game if you want to keep tabs on a thread, allowing you to “interact with each other in similar ways to the reddit.com experience.” That’s probably the most interesting thing about ReddX: the keeping reddit up while you’re doing something else part, a migrational Windows 7-original feature that feels even smarter on a game console.

The least interesting (but slightly amusing) thing: unlocking “media achievements named after some of the Internet’s favorite memes.” I have no idea if any of these are real, but someone’s purportedly taken screenshots of some of them.

And the first reddit thread ever created with a games console? Right this way.

TIME Video Games

Bungie’s New Destiny Trailer Detours to Storm-Wracked Venus

Bungie rolls out another 60 seconds of Destiny gameplay with a peek at Venus, once a terraformed human stronghold now held by a robotic alien race.

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From Mars to Venus, it seems Bungie’s counting down planetary locales you’ll be visiting in Destiny, its online-only first-person shooter due out on September 9.

Last week saw our band of intrepid heroes stalking the red-duned surface of the fourth rock from the sun, so this week is about the second.

“Venus was once the site of a great discovery – a paradise. Now, it is a monument to all that we have lost,” writes Bungie in the teaser. There’s not much else to say about the formerly-greenhouse-gas-suffused planet, which looks lush and bucolic here.

Those peacock-headed mechanoid creatures you’re seeing in the combat cuts are the Vex, a robotic alien species that can time-travel and want to exterminate humanity. And I’m guessing those gate things are the warp points from which they’ll pour forth to help fill your XP meter.

TIME Video Games

You Shouldn’t Play Diablo 3 Ultimate Evil Edition on Your PS Vita

Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard's action-roleplaying opus looks and plays great on the PS4 and Xbox One, but it's an inscrutable mess on the PS Vita.

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition exemplifies everything I don’t like about knocking through certain games on Sony’s PlayStation Vita using Remote Play.

That’s supposed to be the thing you buy a Vita for these days: its wireless PS4 screen-sharing feature, since the handheld’s future as a place to go for new content is gradually closing up, board by board. Instead, the Vita is now the PS4’s $200 second screen, Sony’s unplanned answer to Nintendo’s Wii U GamePad.

But as a second screen employed to judiciously whack away at fields of Fallen Overseers and Flesh Gorgers or Bone Reavers and Boggits in a game like Diablo 3, it leaves a lot to be desired. I say this not to slag Diablo 3 itself, which is at least as terrific on the PS4 and Xbox One as it is on the PS3 and Xbox 360 (I now prefer the consoles versions to the PC original).

I mention it only to warn Vita owners who may be eyeing Remote Play as a selling point for the PS4 version of the game, out Tuesday, August 19. It’s not.

Fire up Diablo 3 on the Vita courtesy the PS4 and you’re transported to a world that’ll give you some sense of what yours is going to feel like when you’re finally trundling through middle age with a pair of reading glasses dangling from shirt pocket or lapel. Words that correspond to face button selections in the game and that look just right on a TV screen per Blizzard’s PC-to-console redesign are practically Lilliputian on the Vita’s minuscule display. The text in my copy of The Compact Oxford English Dictionary — which reduces the entire 20-volume to a single grimoire-sized tome resized by a third of its original dimensions — is roughly on par. Of course, this dictionary comes with one of those slide-over magnifying lenses; the Vita has no such feature.

Text-schmext. Who cares, you’re probably saying. It’s a Blizzard game! Granted, no one plays Diablo 3 for the sculpted prose or imaginative plotting, but let’s say you ignore the writing team’s potboiler blather — there’s a lot of gameplay-specific stuff that’s lost in the shrunken muddle, even if you hold the Vita close and squint.

You’ll need to memorize face-button ability assignments, for instance, because the icons at screen bottom identifying what’s what are lookalike blobs of light smaller than eraser heads. Secondary feedback panels are equally obscure: you can tell you’re benefitting from some sort of power-up, but only that, the icon-of-whatever in its nanoscale square rendered inscrutable.

Just keeping your bearings turns into a needle-hunt: the automap at maximum zoom becomes a faint overlay that’ll let you keep track of the edges of things or pinpoint simplistic map icons like red hearts (healing nodes), but where points of interest lie clustered together, you might as well be sorting specks of sand in an anthill. And the game’s informational nexus, where you fiddle your inventory and skills or check your paragon level and quest objectives, is…actually not too bad, except when you’re looking at colored text. Deep blue (normal magical) items, which look deep purple to me, are almost illegible against the screen’s black background.

As usual, the Vita’s rear touchpad stands in for the missing DualShock secondary triggers, but it’s about as reliable as Microsoft’s Kinect, failing to trigger at first tap about a third of the time. If you’re standing back a ways from a cluster of enemies, no problem, but get yourself blocked up by a squad of Wallers, say, and that lack of one-to-one hair-trigger dependability leads to wasted potion quaffing at best, and at worst, sudden (and unwarranted) death.

Have you ever held a DualShock controller next to the Vita? Try it, paying attention to the length of the thumb controllers. You could stack at least two of the Vita’s nubs to meet one of DualShock 4’s, and that’s being conservative when you factor in the subsurface rotary base and joint. There’s significantly less play, in other words, which when you factor in the Vita’s inherent screen lag, makes for fussy results. Where I have yet to misfire an Entangling Shot wielding the DualShock 4 playing on TV, when playing on the Vita, my Demon Hunter’s missile-fire will careen wide of the mark at least once per scrum, and on occasion fire in the opposite direction. There’s just not enough control space to stretch out and fine-tune your tactics in a game that’s chiefly about tactical fine-tuning.

I’ll give Blizzard this: At least the battle numbers that rise over your or your enemies’ heads are magnified, crit counts or damage amounts looming large for a microsecond, like when you type on an iOS device’s onscreen keyboard. If you just want to wade into a level and farm a bit without tactical nuance, keeping tabs on the mathematical results, it’s doable. But I wouldn’t call it enjoyable.

Like I said, I love Diablo 3 on the PS4, I’m just pointing out that the Vita as a second-screen device for a game like this — and for others with similar problems, like Assassin’s Creed 4 or Need for Speed: Rivals – is an afterthought, something no one’s really designing to. Who can blame them? You’re essentially taking a sledgehammer to an exterior wall and trying to convince someone the hole you get is a window.

Diablo 3 is one of these games that might have worked as a native Vita port, assuming you could get the camera down close enough without breaking design elements specially tailored for the target resolutions (say precisely how far such-and-such spell travels across the screen). It’ll never get one, of course, because no one’s buying the Vita as a destination platform these days, so we’re left with Remote Play’s interpolated half-measures.

This is not, to be fair to the Vita (and Sony, and Blizzard), the Vita’s fault. It wasn’t designed to play games like Diablo 3 on its otherwise gorgeous five-inch OLED screen, or with its tiny thumb nubs in lieu of a full-sized gamepad with full-fledged thumb sticks. Studios will sometimes admit that porting an older game to a newer system and giving it the HD trimmings isn’t a horsepower or even recompilation conundrum so much as an interface or asset scalability one. That’s the trouble with so many Remote Play games, and the reason why games like Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD take years instead of a few brief months to come together.

TIME Video Games

There’s Life on Mars in Bungie’s Latest Destiny Trailer

Mars is the kind of place to raise your kids, so long as they're comfortable wearing something Dune-ish and come packing heat.

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Is it really mid-August already? We’ve less than a month until Destiny lands on September 9 for PlayStation and Xbox platforms like a thermobaric bunker-buster, taking the wind out of everything else’s sails through September’s remainder and possibly beyond.

We spent the beta period that just ended exclusively exploring alien-infested ruins on Earth, so the latest trailer should be of more than passing interest as it highlights a very different off-planet locale central to the game’s sprawling mythology, and one we’ve only glimpsed so far: the planet Mars, hundreds of years in our future.

Here’s Bungie’s tease:

What little we know of Mars may as well be a myth. We built a massive metropolis in the red dust. No one knows what remains of our lost age, now buried beneath the dunes.

TIME Video Games

Microsoft Silent On Xbox One Sales as PlayStation 4 Wins July

Sony says the PlayStation 4 is the fastest selling PlayStation in history, as July retail game sales turn up another net-positive month.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 continues to defy what were once, you may recall, rather tepid expectations for this round of console sales.

Who needs consoles when they have tablets and computerized phones? Who wants to pay $60 or more for games when they can have dozens for a fraction of the price on a mobile device? Who wants to sit in their living room tethered to a TV, or play games that can take 15 or 30 hours or even longer to complete?

Ten million buyers to date worldwide, that’s who, a record in the time that’s passed–nine months, counting November when the console launched–for any PlayStation platform in Sony history, says Sony.

And with July’s NPD retail numbers out, Sony’s saying the PS4 was the number one console for the seventh straight month in a row, and that it led in retail software sales as well. The Last of Us: Remastered held the number one retail sales spot in July (confirmed by NPD), which is that much more impressive when you consider it’s not a new game and that it launched on July 29, so it had just three days to chart.

NPD says video game hardware sales were up dramatically year-on-year, from $99.8 million to $198.8 million, or a full 100%, offsetting declines in older console and current handheld sales. Add up Xbox One and PS4 sales to date and NPD says that compared to Xbox 360 and PS3 sales for the same period, the new consoles are trumping their predecessors by “close to 80 percent.”

Retail software sales were unchanged from July 2013, though as usual, the comparison ignores digital content sales, which could put the actual figure anywhere (and almost surely higher). NPD notes that EA’s annual NCAA Football installment usually launches in July, but that since the series is on indefinite hiatus due to legal squabbles about the use of player likenesses in the games, July 2014 was extra-sleepy on the retail software side.

Overall, NPD says new physical video game sales (hardware, software, accessories) grew 16% compared to July 2013.

Turning back to Sony’s PlayStation 4, we’re now looking at 10 million units sold through worldwide (revealed by Sony August 12) versus 5 million Xbox One units shipped to stores worldwide (revealed by Microsoft back in April). Of course, that doesn’t mean Sony’s outselling Microsoft 2:1, given the four month lag in official Microsoft figures, but then that’s all we know publicly, so on some level, that’s going to be the perception. You could argue Microsoft’s reluctance to get specific is just another way of being very specific, and not knowing where the Xbox One stands on a simple units-sold-through basis is probably as bad or worse than knowing when the apparent gulf starts to look this sizable.

Is Microsoft waiting to say more until it’s launched the Xbox One in more markets? Perhaps. At last count, Sony was selling the PS4 in 72 markets versus Microsoft’s 13 (not as big a deal as the numbers make it sound given population distributions, but far from dismissible).

Microsoft’s supposed to make up some of that shortfall this fall, and it has the Halo Master Chief Collection to help it along, but 2014 is first and foremost third-party-ville: Destiny, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Grand Theft Auto V remastered and so forth. This is not the year of grand and daring first party exclusives, so short of overwhelming fealty to a series like Halo or LittleBigPlanet, or interest in racing games like Forza Horizon 2 or Driveclub, fence-sitters looking to dive in by year’s end are probably going to buy the system that plays those games based on their perception of where the momentum is.

TIME Video Games

Microsoft’s Xbox Tomb Raider Deal Is a Timed Exclusive After All

Xbox boss Phil Spencer won't say how long the timed exclusive lasts, only that it's not "in perpetuity."

I wondered why in the world a platform-agnostic studio like Crystal Dynamics would turn its beloved-once-more Tomb Raider franchise over to a single platform after a string of successes across multiple ones. The news out of Gamescom yesterday was that the studio would bring Rise of the Tomb Raider, its sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider, to the Xbox One exclusively. There was no mention in the presentation of it being a timed exclusive.

Crystal Dynamics’ head of product development Darrell Gallagher said the game was “coming holiday 2015, exclusively to Xbox.” The devil’s in those two words, “holiday 2015,” it seems.

According to Eurogamer, who asked the obvious question of Xbox honcho Phil Spencer at the show, Spencer — and let’s give him credit for being willing to say this much so soon — says the exclusivity deal isn’t forever.

“When people want me to say, can you tell us when or if it’s coming to other platforms, it’s not my job,” Spencer told Eurogamer. “My job is not to talk about games I don’t own.”

And he’s sympathetic to the competition.

“I get the reaction I see,” he continues. “If I’m a PlayStation person all of a sudden I feel like, the franchise has gone.” But Spencer lays concerns he bought or somehow controls Crystal Dynamics to rest, confirming Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t Microsoft’s forever, and that he doesn’t “own [the studio] building Tomb Raider on other platforms.”

When pressed, Spencer wouldn’t say how long the deal lasts (naturally), adding only that Microsoft has Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox 360 and Xbox One for holiday 2015. “What they do with the franchise in the long run is not mine,” he says. “I don’t control it. So all I can talk about is the deal I have. I don’t know where else Tomb Raider goes.”

TIME Video Games

Sony Says 10 Million PlayStation 4 Game Consoles Have Been Sold Worldwide

Sony confirmed the PlayStation 4's latest sales figures during its Gamescom 2014 press conference in Cologne, Germany.

At Gamescom 2014, Sony announced that it’s sold more than 10 million PlayStation game consoles worldwide since the system launched in November 2013. And that would be 10 million plucked off shelves by consumers, not just shipped to stores.

The last time the console majors rolled out unit sales specifics (around the end of March), Sony said it had sold through some 7 million PS4s, Nintendo that it had sold through just over 6 million Wii Us, with Microsoft bringing up the rear at around 5 million Xbox Ones shipped to stores. Microsoft said in July that with the Xbox One’s price drop from $499 to $399 and removal of Kinect in early June, Xbox One sales had more than doubled, but it was unclear then (as now) what the actual figures were.

TIME Video Games

For Better or Worse, Rise of the Tomb Raider Is for Xbox One Only

Score one -- a really, really big one -- for Microsoft.

The sequel to the unexpectedly acclaimed 2013 Tomb Raider series reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is going to be exclusively on Xbox One when it launches next holiday 2015. The game was announced in June at E3, but the assumption then was that it would be multi-platform. It was a safe assumption: The original as well as its remastered version were available for Xbox and PlayStation platforms (as well as PC and Mac).

Crystal Dynamics’ head of product development Darrell Gallagher made the announcement at Gamescom 2014 today, and lest you wonder if “coming holiday 2015, exclusively to Xbox” means a timed-exclusive, with the game eventually rounding the bend for rival platforms, it sounds like that’s not the case (and that it is indeed Xbox-only forever).

Here’s Gallagher clarifying things on Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider Tumblr:

Dear Tomb Raider Community,

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Thanks,

Darrell Gallagher
Crystal Dynamics Head of Studios

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