TIME Video Games

Microsoft Is Paying Xbox 360 Owners to Buy an Xbox One

Microsoft

A Canadian gamer booted up an Xbox 360 games console and unearthed a $75 surprise.

How much would it take to get you off your duff and over to your local game depot to pluck an Xbox One off the shelf? $5? $25? $50?

How about $75? That’s how much NeoGAF poster BeforeU discovered Microsoft was offering to incentivize Xbox 360 owners to pick up an Xbox One, effectively reducing the regularly $400 system’s price tag — assuming you plan to buy games or peripherals immediately — to $325.

The message, says BeforeU, appeared after powering up an Xbox 360, and reads:

Thanks for being an Xbox fan. Hi [blanked out]. As our way of saying thanks we’re giving YOU, one of our very best customers, an exclusive $75 Xbox promotional code with the purchase of any Xbox One or Xbox One Bundle from Microsoft Store or your local retailer. Your code can be used for games, add-ons, movies, and more!

The ad then redirects viewers to http://www.xbox.com/xboxoneconsole to “learn more.”

Users must purchase and activate a new Xbox One console (with or without Kinect) from July 7 at 12:00am PT through July 31 at 11:59pm PT. Microsoft says the $75 promotional credit will be sent to the Xbox One console’s message center direct by August 15, and then you have until October 15, 2014 to redeem it and October 14, 2015 to spend it.

User BeforeU is in Canada and already has an Xbox One, but the promotional fine print indicates the deal is valid in “the 50 U.S. & D.C.” TIME reached out to Microsoft for clarification, and the company confirmed the promotion is in fact valid and not a hoax. Per a Microsoft spokesperson:

This short-term promotion is offered to select Xbox fans in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. We are always looking for opportunities to bring promotions like this to our customers, but we have nothing further to share at this time.

TIME

Lindsay Lohan Should Win Her GTA Lawsuit

Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014
Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014 Clark Samuels—Startraks; Rockstar

I'm no legal expert, but I know my tabloid stars, and I see the evidence that Grand Theft Auto's Lacey Jonas shares some Lohan DNA

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would suggest that the lawsuit Lindsay Lohan filed last week against the makers of Grand Theft Auto isn’t annoying. Yes, it would be nice if Lindsay would go back to being an actual movie star, rather than wasting precious time insisting that her “unequivocal” similarity to Lacey Jonas, a minor character in Grand Theft Auto 5, entitles her to compensation. And yes it would be nice if this weren’t Lohan’s third similar lawsuit. But the fact is, like her or not, the 28-year-old actress/docu-drama subject/paparazzi bait might in fact have a bare, slightly bruised leg to stand on.

Lindsay Lohan is not someone you’d want taking care of your grandmother or even your guppy. But that’s not what’s in question here. What is—put so well in Forbes by intellectual property attorney Kim Landsman—is this: “How recognizable is Lindsay Lohan as the Lacey Jonas character? Would it be recognized specifically as her or as a generic, blond, bimbo actress?” It seems to me that the answers are a. very and b. yes.

Obviously there’s the fact that the hotel in the game, Gentry Manor, brings to mind Chateau Marmont, a place Lindsay has frequented. Then there’s the whole running away from the paparazzi thing that’s pretty Lilo-esque. But let’s get to the stuff that’s more exclusively her. First of all, Lacey’s voice. The way that she makes a declarative, despairing statement “This is a disaster!” and then rambles “Oh my God, I’m so f—ing fat. Oh my God! They cannot get a shot of me!” and then throws out a generally desperate and kind of unanswerable question “How’s my hair? Do I look cute?” Sorry, Rockstar — that is not a “generic” voice, or “generic” speech patterns. No one else sort of wails at the end of everything she says quite like Lohan. And if you don’t know what I mean, please enjoy this clip of Lohan on her reality show upbraiding her assistant for not getting her new keys made fast enough.

Then there are the outfits, which Lacey wears not only in the game but also in promotional material, that the lawsuit mentions explicitly and at great length as being Lohann-y. If I were the Lohan legal team I would forget about the stuff that sort of looks like Lohan would wear it — Lohan did not invent or perfect the short-short, high-heels, 800-necklace look — and concentrate instead on the image for Grand Theft Auto’s cover, which is a blonde model in a bikini giving the peace sign and taking a selfie. Model Shelby Welinder posed for the ads in 2012, but the Lohan photo that looks EXACTLY like it was taken in 2007. Also, if you said to three million people, “Hey, you know that picture of a blonde chick taking a selfie and giving the peace sign, in a bikini? Who is she?” two million of them would say “What?” but the other million would say “Lindsay Lohan,” and the number of people saying, ‘Oh, isn’t that Shelby Welinder?” well, that would be zero.

Finally, there’s Lacey’s personality. She’s demanding, yelling to the poor motorcycle racing protagonist she’s forced into giving her a ride “Go faster! Go faster.” But demanding is pretty basic. Lacey could just as well be channeling Mariah Carey. Or even Katherine Heigl, if Heigl weren’t more of a stay-at-home complainer, with no personality to rip off. If demanding is too broad a category to make GTA 5’s work “unequivocally” Lohan-inspired, then there’s the arrogance: Lacey shouts “I’m really famous!” and is generally appalled that the motorcyclist doesn’t know who she is. Only a few actors have been caught pulling the fame card, Lindsay among them. (Lindsay’s mother Dina even asked someone “Do you know who I am?”)

Lindsay Lohan might not be the classiest person around, but she’s special in other ways. Not everyone can say theyowe the Chateau Marmont $46,000. Not everyone can claim to be America’s sweetheart and then run over it all with a limo. And not everyone can lie to Oprah. There is only one Lindsay, and surely, at this point, she’s at least got a right to that.

Sarah Miller writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME technology

Here Comes the Sharknado Video Game You Secretly Kind of Wanted

NBCUniversal / AP

It was really only a matter of time

On July 30, viewers will be treated to (or, depending on your perspective, tortured with) a sequel to Sharknado, the “exquisitely ridiculous” Syfy movie that took social media by storm in 2013. To accompany the release of Sharknado 2, we’re also getting a video game. It will be released sometime before the movie’s premiere, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The game, which will be available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod, will allow users to race through New York City, fending off sharks with the help of chainsaws. Laugh all you want, but you know that sounds like fun.

TIME Video Games

2K Announces Battleborn, But Do We Need Another MOBA?

To be fair, it may be the first first-person cooperative shooter MOBA on the block.

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World, meet the vaguely-named new shooter (kind-of-sort-of) from publisher 2K and Borderlands creator Gearbox Software, Battleborn. Battleborn, meet your nomenclature-cynical readership.

What’s in a name? To be fair not much when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s the alliterative front, the epitome of anodyne label, the rolls-off-the-tongue-like-a-sugar-pellet fishhook you quickly forget once you’re playing the thing. So let’s forgive Gearbox its lapse in titular creativity and focus on what they’re promising Battleborn is and might do.

For starters, and I apologize if this makes you want to close you browser’s view tab, it’s a MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, which is the somewhat superfluous cool-kids way of referring to a real-time strategy game with action-angled house rules.

Gearbox calls it a “hero-shooter,” and that’s the twist: that it’s a cooperative shooter which Gearbox boldly proclaims will offer “an experience unlike anything you’ve played before.” Given the track record for such multiple-times-daily claims, I highly doubt that, but there you have it.

Here’s the narrative summary, which could really be any narrative summary:

Set in a distant future, the only hope for the last star in a dying universe is a new breed of warriors who must put aside their differences to drive back an unstoppable menace. Players choose from a myriad of powerful heroes and fight together alongside their friends in a narrative-driven co-operative campaign, or battle against them in fast-paced competitive multiplayer matches.

If you want a smidgen more, Game Informer has the exclusive reveal, else there’s some stylish prancing and leaping around to think deeply about in the reveal trailer above.

TIME Video Games

PlayStation 4, PC Lead Development in European ‘State of the Industry’ Report

PC and mobile games lead all once again, while Sony's PlayStation 4 is the development platform of choice by a notable margin.

The annual GDC Europe meetup is nearly here — it transpires in Cologne, Germany in early August — and in advance, Game Developers Conference Europe just released a boatload of demographic development information about who’s doing what with PC, mobile and console games looking down the road.

The results come from the UBM Tech Game Network-run show’s second annual European State of the Industry Survey, and indicate — no great surprise here — that PC and mobile remain the platforms of choice across the pond. Mobile edges out PC development slightly, with 65 percent of respondents indicating they’re working on a mobile title versus 58 percent on PC. Those percentages are reportedly higher than last year, which GDC Europe says suggests European developers are more focused on PC and mobile than in North America (again, not surprisingly, given PC gaming’s strong and sustained historical presence in Europe).

Switching to consoles, the survey has the PlayStation 4 leading for the second time consecutively, with 18 percent indicating they were working on PS4 titles (versus 13 percent for Xbox One). Furthermore, 33 percent of respondents expect their next game to be a PS4 project, versus 23 percent for Xbox One.

How many European developers plan to crowdfund their next project? “A startling 41 percent,” says GDC Europe — up from 10 percent currently. This, despite legal barriers in Europe that the group says “makes it trickier to crowdfund.”

And the winner of the annual “best place to build your development empire” poll? Sweden, according to the survey, home to Minecraft, the Battlefield games, Paradox Interactive’s sprawling history-minded strategy titles, and of course, Goat Simulator.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

 

TIME Video Games

Here Are the 15 Best Games of 2014 (So Far)

As we slide pass the year's halfway mark, let's glance back at some of the strongest games to grace 2014 so far.

With E3 in our rearview mirrors, everyone’s laser-locked on up-and-comers like Destiny, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Grand Theft Auto V remastered this holiday, but 2014’s been a pretty solid year for gaming so far. Here’s our list of picks so far.

  • Bravely Default

    So what if it’s basically Final Fantasy V reimagined, or that the game’s latter half has serious shortcomings if you’re not a fan of repetitive filler? Bravely Default stands as a love letter to fans of fantasy games that eschew restrictive D&D-style class systems and make no apologies for combat mechanics that unfurl turn by turn, though in Bravely Default‘s case, the latter design vamp seems novel enough: a hedging system, whereby you can either save or deficit spend battle points against enemies.

    Nintendo 3DS

  • Child of Light

    Ubisoft’s budget-priced side-scrolling fable — told using poetic stanzas — riffs on roleplaying tropes while serving up an evocative, hand-drawn fantasy pastiche with traces of Yoshitaka Amano and Hayao Miyazaki. It’s an experience that deftly melds its painstakingly painting-like environs and allegorical fable-inspired narrative to a first-rate battle system: one unapologetically inspired by Final Fantasy-style roleplaying games, but with its own hidden depths and wrinkles.

    PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita

  • Dark Souls 2

    Does it matter whether Dark Souls 2 is the greater (or lesser) Dark Souls? It shouldn’t — not when it’s this good. Series newcomers Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura recapture most of what makes Dark Souls feel like a Dark Souls, scaffolding to foundation, the world swathed in plaintive John Barry-ish piano strains, melancholy lighting and baffling alien architecture. Ironically risk-averse, the sequel plays like an extended version of the original moody hack-and-slash.

    PC, PS3, Xbox 360

  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

    Everything’s lovably off-kilter and kaleidoscopic in Nintendo’s throwback Donkey Kong Country platformer, which tills well-plowed ground, but deftly. It’s not the breakthrough Wii U game Mario Kart 8 turned out to be, so much as a reminder that games like this can still be guilty pleasures if you’re not allergic to throwback side-scrollers replete with clever puzzling twists.

    Wii U

  • Entwined

    You can’t really lose in Entwined, you just swing back and forth along a tug-of-rope-style progress meter, which fits the game on a shelf somewhere between “relaxation exercise” and “pattern puzzler.” The goal is to unite an origami-like fish and a bird, which you do by piloting each discretely with left and right thumbsticks through target chains. The trick is getting your single-tasking brain to coordinate those left and right actions simultaneously.

    PS4, PS3, PS Vita

  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

    Part of the allure of Blizzard rolling its bejeweled horse carriage through the hoof-tramped mud of a played-out genre is the Blizzard name. And that’s what you’ll get in this free-to-play confectionary: an otherwise vanilla collectible card game wrapped up in Blizzard’s trademark audio-visual razzle-dazzle. Playing Hearthstone is too easy and compulsive not to play Hearthstone, which is why the game’s clocked over 10 million accounts since it launched in March 2014.

    PC, iPad

  • Infamous: Second Son

    Infamous: Second Son gets unfairly compared to Grand Theft Auto V because they’re both lazily categorized as “open world” games. But Infamous: Second Son is about letting you do crazy, cathartic, building-bounding superhero stuff in the best-looking metropolis-playground yet devised for a video game (until GTA V remastered arrives late this year, anyway). That, and developer Sucker Punch spins a decent yarn with more than passing emotional resonance, thanks in part to visual technology that allowed it to craft character performances even more lifelike than the ones being touted in Activision’s ballyhooed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare spots.

    PS4

  • Mario Kart 8

    Imagine a carnival of race tropes, a grab bag of driver profiles, tactics and race types, a melange of little gameplay iterations and configuration tweaks and “Holy crap, I’m racing up and down that?” moments jammed into a single game. To sum up my affection for this best-of-all-Nintendo’s-Mario-Karts-to-date in a few words: lavish, kaleidoscopic, gasp-inducing, ingenious, exotic, balletic and — let’s switch from words to statements — something worth playing for a long, long time.

    Wii U

  • Nidhogg

    Remember Karateka? Nidhogg feels kind of like that: a game about dueling to your left or right with some light environmental (walls, ledges) vamping. Part of the charm’s in the pixellated look, of course, coupled with the overblown kinetic scenery and crazed, oscillating backgrounds teeming with strange, wriggling creatures.

    PC

  • Shovel Knight

    Shovel Knight would have been a winner had it arrived back in the 1980s alongside obvious inspirations, like DuckTales for the original Nintendo. Bask in its unabashed genuflection to 1980s game design tropes. Bathe in its classic NES color palette. Chuckle at the notion of a horn-helmed knight nobly brandishing a sharpened spade he can bounce on like a pogo stick. William Faulkner said it best: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Faulkner would have understood (and probably played) Shovel Knight.

    PC, Wii U, 3DS

  • South Park: The Stick of Truth

    No one expected much from this oft-delayed South Park tie-in, but Obsidian delivered the goods: a comedy roleplaying game that lets you explore the looney, deftly satirical world Trey Parker and Matt Stone built. And the funny stuff’s really funny for a change, not just funny-for-a-video-game.

    PC, PS3, Xbox 360

  • Titanfall

    Titanfall is for that certain kind of highly competitive someone with more of an e-sports mentality. If that’s you, Titanfall plays like hitting the jackpot. It’s not a galvanic shift in shooter-dom, it’s about placating highly competitive, multiplayer-only, twitchy shooter wonks with an oiled smorgasbord of shooter tropes and tactical wrinkles.

    PC, Xbox One

  • Transistor

    Transistor may not be quite up to Bastion‘s sky-high standards, but it’s still an interesting foray for developer Supergiant Games. In some ways it’s bolder, shifting its focus from Bastion‘s clever narrative payouts to a complex turn-based battle system that reads, literally, like a stack of math equations. The tactical engine suffers slightly in asking that you make exacting choices using an inexact isometric interface, but on balance, it gains more than it loses for trying.

    PC, PS4

  • Watch Dogs

    Watch Dogs was supposed to be this grand genre-bending hacking game, but you’ll do almost nothing of the sort. That’s a good thing, though what you do instead — mostly shooting, sneaking and speeding around a fantasy version of Chicago — dithers between inspired and imitative. The reason to play Watch Dogs isn’t its forgettable story, its boring lead character, or its dull side-activities, but the battles, where you’ll hop around the field disembodied, zipping camera to camera like a cyber-poltergeist, triggering hazards or distractions — like cranking the volume in a guard’s headset to ear-splitting levels or pulling the virtual pin on someone’s belted grenade. It’s combat through a laboratory lens, and a blast every time.

    PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U

  • Wolfenstein: The New Order

    At times, Wolfenstein: The New Order feels as calculated and observant as BioShock, if in the end, less ambitious. When it swerves from camp to cool cogitation, it does so knowingly, the latter moments unfurling during interludes spent wandering a resistance base chatting up other resistance members, your patriotic gusto threatened by a mirror MachineGames keeps holding up. It’s that unexpected attention to The New Order‘s world-building that makes this single-player-only game more than just a shooting gallery with a few new tricks — the sort of camaraderie and reflection in adversity, steeped in creeping dread and philosophical exposition, that made something like The Matrix more than just an expo for bullet time.

    PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360

TIME Video Games

Virtual Reality and Eye Tracking: Sony’s Vision of the Future

Sony envisions a future where virtual reality is king

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After Nintendo’s “smash hit” Wii, Sony realized that raw horsepower wasn’t necessarily the be all, end all for a video game console. Jump to the beginning of 2013, when Playstation formed Magic Lab: a special R&D arm at PlayStation tasked with dreaming up the next generation of gaming experiences.

“We had the concept in 2012 for this group which would use technology to really explore new experiences,” said Richard Marks, Director of PlayStation’s Magic Lab. “We really focused a lot on technology in the past, and [now] we really want to focus more on the new experiences that technology enables. One of the things that we believe strongly in is actually prototyping things; we call it: experiencing engineering.”

Since joining Sony, Richard Marks has been responsible for the development of Sony’s PlayStation Eye, PlayStation Move controllers and now Sony’s foray into virtual reality: Project Morpheus, a wraparound headset designed to work with the company’s PlayStation 4 games console. The headset’s revelation came in tandem with Facebook’s high-stakes maneuver to put virtual reality on the map for non-gamers per its recent $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift.

So far, Sony’s touted Morpheus to game designers at shows like the Game Developers Conference and E3 to drum up development interest (though the technology’s still far from a commercial product — it currently has no release date). Morpheus’ display still has a few issues, too: there’s a stutter effect on some demonstrations caused by high latency, and Morpheus’ Field of View (FOV) doesn’t cover everyone’s vision completely. The technology also has various critics predicting that it lacks a mass market appeal. But then again Morpheus is only a prototype, as are the various Oculus Rift iterations.

“There’s a trade-off. There’s a fixed amount of resolution. So you can either give that to a really wide field of view or you can make [the resolution] feel higher, but the [field of view] narrower. We’re trying to get a good balance of that. Right now we’re still working on the issue of the display. Right now we have a great prototype system for our developers … [but] for the commercial system, we’re still working on that.”

And as a prototype, Project Morpheus is an amazing portal into what VR could look like for the future. The technology is so electrifying that creators and entrepreneurs outside the games industry are seeing VR’s potential, which is why Facebook put up the cash in the first place. For instance, currently Sir David Attenborough is creating a VR nature documentary, companies are looking into how VR can impact education and Hollywood is looking into virtual reality movies.

Whether VR will succeed as a mass market product or not remains to be seen; in the meantime, PlayStation’s Magic Lab is tinkering with its notion of what the future of gaming might look like.

During the launch of the PlayStation 4 in November 2013, Marks and fellow Magic Lab researcher Eric Larsen were demoing their eye tracking or “gaze tracking” technology. “A lot of different people are looking at how to track your eyes. Our focus is more on, if you can track your eyes, what do you do with it?” Marks said.

The technology has a lot of potential applications, like as a targeting assistant for shooter games, as Marks and Larsen demonstrated with the game Infamous: Second Son. One of the more interesting applications Marks noted is the ability to pick up on subtle, non-verbal communication cues. “Where someone is looking conveys a lot of information about what the person is interested in, what they intend to do, and it’s a very unconscious thing that people do,” Larsen said.

In the demonstration, the player interacts with a computer store merchant who’s trying to sell the player different products. The eye gazing technology detects what products the player is looking at and uses that information to decide what products to pitch the player. “You can make the characters smarter because they kind of react in a way that is more intelligent because they know what you’re looking at,” Marks adds.

On top of that, Magic Lab is also looking into biometrics, partnering with UC San Francisco to research brain waves as a feedback mechanism for how a game affects players.

Magic Lab, like Google X — responsible for the creation of Google Glass and Google’s Driverless Car — seems to be Sony’s take on “experiencing engineering” without the red-tape. Whether Magic Lab will create products with the same hype factor as Google X’s ideas is anyone’s guess, but if Morpheus is any indication, Marks and his team are off to a promising start.

MORE: What Gaming Industry Professionals Think of Virtual Reality:

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Video Games

PlayStation Owners Can Hop Into Bungie’s Destiny Beta on July 17

Xbox owners have to wait until the following week, and the everyone has until July to 27 to blast each others' faces off.

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Bungie’s official Destiny beta has a date: July 17 at 10:00am PT. That’s a Thursday, so you might as well take Friday off and make a long weekend of it. Just pretend it’s Labor Day come early, or the Fourth of July come late.

The catch is that it’s only available on the PlayStations 3 and 4 on July 17. If you want to mess with it on the Xbox One or Xbox 360, you’ll have to wait slightly less than a week longer for those versions to drop: July 23 at 10:00am PT.

To be fair, PlayStation owners won’t have it for a full week. According to Bungie, the beta will be offline on July 21 and 22 for “scheduled maintenance.” And then it’ll only run through July 27 at 11:59pm PT. When I spoke with Bungie at E3, my understanding was that they were planning multiple beta phases, so this probably won’t be the last chance you’ll have to play Destiny before it launches on September 9.

Activision’s using the beta announcement to highlight its collectible tiers, which I won’t bother detailing here (I dislike collectibles, mostly because companies often send them my way unasked for, stuffed with generally forgettable junk). Suffice to say, you can pay $60 for the base game, $90 for the “Guardian Edition,” $100 for the “Limited Edition” or $150 for the “Ghost Edition,” each with various physical or digital download additives — the full details are here.

TIME Video Games

Kinect v2.0 for Windows Will Cost Half an Xbox One on July 15

Microsoft

Microsoft's revised motion-sensing peripheral will run you $200 -- half the price of a $400 Xbox One -- when it goes on sale later this month.

Wisdom was Microsoft removing Kinect from its Xbox One, but for all our ennui with the peripheral as a home theater interface, we’re quick to forget where the real Kinect story played out: Microsoft’s motion and voice recognition sensor bar was a boon for armchair tinkerers who figured out how to use the peripheral to control real-world robots, play Heart and Soul like Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia, open toilet bowls without touching the lids or play World of Warcraft without a controller.

You hear about that stuff less the last year or so, in part because the Kinect v1.0 is now three-and-a-half years old, and Kinect v2.0 hasn’t been available apart from the Xbox One. That’ll change on July 15, when Microsoft begins selling its “Kinect for Windows v2 Sensor” as a standalone part for $200.

That’s right, $200, making it roughly twice the presumptive price of the part based on Microsoft’s subtractive Xbox One pricing. The Xbox One dropped from $500 to $400 on June 9, and the only difference in the SKU was the removal of the Kinect sensor.

To be clear, there’s no official Kinect for Xbox One standalone SKU. You can’t go out to Amazon or GameStop or Microsoft’s own product store and purchase Kinect for Xbox One separately (Microsoft’s said such a part is coming, but not how much it’ll cost). Assuming Kinect v2.0 for Windows was going to be $100, therefore, was simply that: an assumption.

But $200 does seem a little spendy, even if it’s $50 less than what we initially paid the first time around for Kinect v1.0 for Windows (back in 2012). For $200, you get Kinect v2.0, that’s it — no software, nada. If you want to develop anything for it, you’ll have to hook up with the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0, which Microsoft notes is licensed separately.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

 

TIME Video Games

There’s a New Civilization Revolution Game on the Block

2K

The sequel to 2K's populist reimagining of its turn-based strategy Civilization franchise is out now for iOS, with an Android version to follow later this year.

Somehow this slid under my radar: Civilization Revolution 2 exists, a sequel to 2008’s Civilization Revolution, and it’s available as I’m typing this for $15 on the iOS App Store (with an Android version to follow later this year).

It’s hard to know what to make of it, since it had so little pre-release press. Who devised this stealth-sequel anyway? Firaxis?

Not this time. Firaxis designed the original, which shipped for consoles first, followed by mobile phones and Nintendo’s DS later. 2K China handled the iOS port of that original game, and it seems they’re in the driver’s seat for the sequel. That may be neither here nor there, but if you want to scan their development history for yourself, see here. They’re mostly known for doing ports of games someone else created.

2K’s standalone Civilization Revolution site makes no mention of the game (in fact, the page hasn’t been updated in years). There’s an official sub-site for it off the trunk Civilization site, indicating what it’s compatible with (iPhone 4S+, iPad 2+, iPad Mini 1+ and iPod Touch 5) and offering this description (my emphasis):

The sequel to one of the most successful strategy games on mobile is here! Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution 2 challenges players to build a glorious empire that will stand the test of time. This is the first game in the Civilization catalog to be developed and available exclusively for mobile devices. Civilization Revolution 2 offers mobile strategy fans a brand new 3D presentation and more tactical depth than ever before! Find out if you have what it takes to rule the world!

And then there’s the feature checklist: a few new units (Aircraft Carriers, Jet Fighters, SpecOps Infantry), some new tech (Lasers, Medicine, Information Tech), new buildings and wonders (Nuclear Power Plant, The Red Cross, Silicon Valley), 3D graphics (the original mobile versions were 2D) and some history-minded scenario challenges.

The good news is that it’s $15, not a buck or free plus in-game purchases. Once you’ve bought it, it’s simply free-to-play. The bad news is that the game ships without multiplayer — just as Civilization Revolution did, true, but the latter wound up getting it down the road for $2.99. If history repeats, that means Civilization Revolution 2 is really free-to-play-solo, with a pay-for multiplayer update to come.

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