This is a portion of mock news articles I wrote in my Feature Writing class at HPU. Video games was my beat, of course!


9


Rocksteady Studios Is Back With The Caped Crusader In Batman: Arkham Knight

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Batman flies over the chaotic streets of Gotham. (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

“Batman: Arkham Asylum” was the most surprising superhero game the world had seen back when it launched in 2009. No one thought it was possible to create a great game with an existing comic book property after so many failed games in the past, but Rocksteady Studios broke this streak and received critical acclaim abroad with “Arkham Asylum.” Then, the developer wowed everyone once more in 2011 with “Batman: Arkham City,” receiving heaps of praise a second time around for improving upon the first game in nearly every way.

Now, after Warner Bros. Games Montreal took the reigns of the franchise with “Batman: Arkham Origins” for a short while, Rocksteady Studios has finally come out of the shadows to reveal “Batman: Arkham Knight” in the Gameinformer magazine’s latest cover story. This game will be the developer’s last one for the franchise.

The “Arkham” games have been characterized by making small yet meaningful improvements to each new franchise entry, and “Arkham Knight” is no exception. “Arkham City” improved on its predecessor with a completely different environment in a bigger game world with more compelling side content, and “Arkham Origins” introduced a spin on “boss battles” and fast travel system so players could quickly get around the game’s world. With Arkham Knight, Rocksteady Studios is directly integrating the Batmobile into gameplay, which will make it an essential part of Batman’s main arsenal.

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The Batmobile is one of the most iconic vehicles in comic books and films, and now it will appropriately arrive in a video game. (Photo courtesy of Gameinformer)

In an interview with Gameinformer, creative director Sefton Hill emphasizes the Batmobile’s importance.

“It’s never a burden. That’s the idea. We don’t want it to be something that you’re ever thinking, ‘Oh, where’d I park the Batmobile? Is it going to take ages to get here?’ The idea is it’s always sort of tracking Batman so it’s always just around the corner for you to call in if you need it,” Hill said. “You really get used to the fact that you’ve got one button press on L1, press it at any time. … It’s always adding to the experience. That’s really important to us. It’s not a protection mission to protect the Batmobile.”

Gaminformer also reports how Rocksteady tried to do this with “Arkham City,” but scrapped the idea due to technical limitations. Now, with widened streets and better level design in Gotham City, this has been made possible for “Arkham Knight.” Besides cruising the streets of Gotham with finesse, the Batmobile will also scare groups of enemies from approaching the player. The tank-like vehicle is equipped with weapons, such as a built-in taser system that stuns any criminal who thinks of hijacking it. The Batmobile can fire missiles that can take out enemy vehicles safely as well.

The story will test Batman to his limits as all of his villains are teaming up to take him out, which has set the evacuation of Gotham civilians in motion since Scarecrow is planning to set off a deadly toxin in the city. The Arkahm Knight (the main villain of the game) will also play an integral role in shaping the story, and with Batman at the height of his abilities with more moves, tricks and knowledge up his sleeve, this game is shaping up to be a climactic conclusion no one will forget. Players will be able to done the cowl of the Dark Knight later this year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and be on the lookout for more details as they are revealed this month on Gameinformer.


10


Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Releases To Middling Reviews

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Big Boss looks off in the distance with his night vision goggles. (Photo courtesy of Konami)

The “Metal Gear Solid” franchise has always had an exceptional record. If you were to search for all of the games on Metacritic, you would find that all of the main, numbered entries rest at a 94 percent average with critic reviews and other franchise spin-offs have an 80 percent average.

“Metal Gear Solid” also has firm roots in game history, stretching back to 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s one of “the most influential series in the game industry,” according to Gameinformer editor Tim Turi.

You could rationally conclude that the release of “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” yesterday would have been met with glowing reviews from critics as well. However, the opposite happened.

The PS4 version of the game currently has a 74 percent average on Metacritic with review scores ranging from 50 to 90 percent. It’s clear that the latest installment in this highly-revered series has fallen short of its standard, but how?

The primary culprit of this failure is the game’s length, which became a major concern among gamers because of its price. On the PS3 and Xbox 360, the game costs $20 digitally and $30 at retail, and on the PS4 and Xbox One, it costs $30 digitally and at retail.

The original price of the retail version on the PS4 and Xbox One was originally $40, which the publisher, Konami, lowered when it received widespread backlash.

What exactly is wrong with this price in relation to the game’s length? This was revealed in the Gameinformer cover story for the game, where the author, Tim Turi, states that it took him less than two hours to finish in one sitting. Compared to past “Metal Gear Solid” titles that provide 25-40 hour-long stories, its understandable that so many people complained about this.

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This is footage of the FOX Engine’s beautiful graphical rendering in action as Big Boss stares into the camera and says his classic line: “Kept you waiting, huh?” (Footage courtesy of Konami)

When the Gameinformer editorial staff heard this from its readers, Turi clarified his remarks on the game’s length with this article.

“Konami is including an undisclosed amount of extra missions that feature different objectives that take place in the same game world. We played a mission set during the daytime that Konami has previously shown, a side mission where Snake rescues a VIP, and the console-exclusive Déjà Vu and Jamais Vu modes,” he said. “We don’t know how much playtime will be added by all the extra missions altogether. We know there will be more side missions than the ones we were shown.”
This news satisfied some while others were still not convinced. Now, with dozens of critic reviews to read, the latter group has had good reason to remain skeptical.

“Beyond offering a sampling of some of the enhanced gameplay systems being added to the series, ‘Ground Zeroes’ is hardly worthy of the franchise moniker,” Polygon editor Russ Frushtick said.

Gameinformer editor Joe Juba gave the game a seven out of 10, who’s concerned for how “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” will turn out when it comes out next year.

“Ground Zeroes looks and plays like Metal Gear in some ways, but it feels hollow in others,” he said, “resulting in a disappointing and unsatisfying glimpse into the future of this series.”

Despite all of the negativity about the game’s length, nearly every critic praises its mechanics and graphics.

“We really can’t fault what little we played – as far as the mechanics and design are concerned,” Push Square editor Ben Potter said.

In addition, Kotaku editor Kirk Hamilton describes the game as “an often beautifully constructed game that for all its good ideas and slick execution remains quite obviously a sliver of a larger, more complete game.”

Critics have drawn their lines in the sand when it comes to whether or not “Ground Zeroes” has enough content to justify its price, but will consumers think it’s too expensive? Time will tell when the sales numbers for the game will sneak into the wild.


11


Assassin’s Creed: Unity Has Been Unveiled

In 2012, gamers took flight as a Native American fighting in the Revolutionary War in “Assassin’s Creed III.” Last year, they filled the salty boots of a mischievous pirate turned Assassin in the Caribbean with “Black Flag.” Now, they will witness the French Revolution through the eyes of a mysterious, blue-hooded Assassin in a new adventure set to come out sometime later this year.

On March 19, Kotaku editor Jason Schreier posted a set of leaked screenshots from an anonymous source for the latest “Assassin’s Creed” game either code-named or called “Unity.” He revealed a number of details, such as that the game will be set in Paris during the 1800s, as evidenced by the famous landmarks in the pictures like the Seine River and Notre Dame.

There will be new features to the “Assassin’s Creed” series like ‘Parkour Up’ and ‘Parkour Down’, which suggests that its signature free climbing gameplay will be revamped or can simply be turned on or off for more efficient and responsive movement.

He also confirmed that it will be exclusively made for the PS4 and Xbox One. Whether the game will come to the PC platform is not mentioned, but it can be asserted that this is a given. As for the PS3 and Xbox 360, an “Assassin’s Creed” game code-named “Comet” is rumored to be made for these game consoles. There is no mention if Nintendo’s Wii U will host either of these games.

These are the exclusive screenshots that Kotaku obtained.

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Only two days after this was leaked, publisher Ubisoft confirmed that “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” is indeed set during the French Revolution and that it will be coming to the PS4, Xbox One and PC later this year. Instead of simply saying this though, Ubisoft also provided a brief glimpse of the game with a teaser trailer showing aristocratic buildings, abandoned streets and a massive crowd of French citizens gathered around a guillotine. The blue-hooded Assassin – supposedly named Arno – is also shown surveying the bloody chaos below.

No other details can be deciphered from the trailer that hasn’t already been established by Kotaku, but Ubisoft promises that they will “have many more exciting details for you in the future.”


12


Facebook Acquires Oculus Rift For A Whopping $2 Billion

Imagine a virtual reality device you can comfortably wear. It has a screen inside that spans your full peripheral vision, tracks head movement and practically puts you inside a game where you can look around its environment in any possible direction. Now, imagine buying the rights to it from the small team who made it for $2 billion.

That’s what Facebook did with the Rift.

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This is a prototype of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. (Photo courtesy of Engadget)

On March 25, the company bought Oculus VR Inc. for $400 million in cash, $1.6 billion in stock, and another $300 million that’s subject to satisfying financial targets in this transaction, which is expected to close in this year’s second quarter. This acquisition is a shock to the whole video game industry due to the Rift’s humble origins.

It started as a Kickstarter project led by Palmer Luckey, the creator of the Rift and head of Oculus VR Inc. The funding goal was $250,000 minimum, but it exceeded this within 24 hours and went on to earn over $2.4 million.

The public saw the potential and innovation emanating from the Rift and knew it was the next big thing, and they weren’t the only ones. Game developers saw it as well.

Markus Persson, the creator of “Minecraft,” expressed interest in bringing his game to the device with its virtual reality capabilities. Gabe Newell, the head of Valve, announced that “Team Fortress 2” would be ported to the Rift, and John Carmack, the legendary designer behind the “Doom” video games, would do the same with “Doom 3: BFG Edition.” Carmack later left his own studio in favor of joining the Oculus VR. Inc team among several other prominent figures in the industry.

Last year, Oculus VR Inc. went on to secure over $16 million in investment funds and another $75 million in December. The small start-up company grew in employees and status, and recently announced a newer version of the Rift in a developer kit at GDC 2014, which implements 1080p visual capabilities and a more finalized design. Who would have thought where it would end up in a matter of days?

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Unlike the virtual reality headsets of old, the Oculus Rift is surprisignly small (Photo courtesy of Atelier)

Many gamers and people who had originally backed the original Rift on Kickstarter are up in arms with Facebook and Oculus Rift Inc.’s transaction.

“I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook,” Markus Persson said. “Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform. There’s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me. And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.”

However, John Carmack has addressed the public’s concern over this transaction.

I share some of your misgivings about companies ‘existing and operating only to be acquired’. … Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Facebook (or this soon),” he said. “I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies.”

“However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it,” he continued, “and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim. … I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR. I have a deep respect for the technical scale that FB operates at. The cyberspace we want for VR will be at this scale.”

The future remains even more mysterious for Oculus VR Inc. and how the Rift will eventually turn out, but there is no doubt that this $2 billion purchase by Facebook means more than words can say. The game industry might be taking some big steps in the years to come with virtual reality as a result of this acquisition.