If you were feeling nostalgic for old-school Max Payne, the perpetually grimacing star of Remedy’s iconic third-person shooter of the same name, take heart. There’s now a mod for Max Payne 3 that brings back the character’s unforgettable OG face—based on Remedy Creative Director Sam Lake—squint and all.
How Alan Wake 2 Builds Upon The ‘Remedy-Verse’
For the uninitiated, Max Payne is a 2001 third-person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind Alan Wake, Control, and Quantum Break. The game featured the likeness of Sam Lake, a Remedy staff member who became known for lending his very structured face to the game’s protagonist. But Lake’s time as Payne’s face soon ended, as both Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and Rockstar Studios’ Max Payne 3 changed course, with the former NYPD detective being modeled after actors Timothy Gibbs and then James McCaffrey in those sequels. However, modder AlexSavvy has now released a Sam Lake mod on Nexus Mods that puts Lake’s memorable mug back into Max Payne 3.
The mod “brings back the original look of Max Payne from the first game” so you can basically play as Sam Lake’s Max Payne in Max Payne 3. That game was pretty graphically sophisticated in its time, so making this mod required AlexSavvy to alter the fitting of every single costume to match Sam Lake’s body, and also model all the different hairstyles Payne sports throughout the game’s narrative.
The modder sought to fully preserve all existing facial expressions and wounds, and also brought back Payne’s Hawaiian shirt and leather jacket combo from the first game. In total, the mod replaces some 98 in-game models and 66 textures to reconstruct Sam Lake’s likeness. As ever, even a seemingly simple mod can require a ton of work.
If early feedback is anything to go by, AlexSavvy nailed it. Certain Max Payne fans have always had a bone to pick with the character’s changed appearance in Max Payne 3, and while it may have taken over a decade, now they can finally enjoy the game as the Max Payne they know and love, who happens to look a lot like Sam Lake.
Lake, incidentally, will also be appearing in Remedy’s upcoming Alan Wake 2, in which he’ll provide his likeness for the FBI agent Alex Casey.
At long last, Xbox owners will soon get to enjoy the MMORPG PlayStation players have enjoyed for nearly a decade. Final Fantasy XIV is headed to Xbox Series X/S in spring 2024 after being a PlayStation console exclusive since 2014.
I Didn’t Play Final Fantasy XVI ‘Right,’ And That’s OK
Producer and director Naoki Yoshida made the announcement on stage at the game’s 2023 fanfest in Las Vegas, NV alongside Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. The Xbox Series X/S version will offer 4K graphics and faster load times, like its PlayStation 5 counterpart. While the full release is still almost a year away, an open beta will be available for players to try much sooner when patch 6.5x arrives in the months ahead.
For those who have been living under an adamantoise shell, Final Fantasy XIV has you complete fetch quests, dungeons, and raids across the dazzling world of Hydaelyn, full of political intrigue and mythical wonder. The game was one of the first live-service disasters when it first launched in 2013, and was even entirely shutdown for a time before re-releasing as A Realm Reborn.
It’s recieved increasingly excellent expansions ever since, each introducing new characters, classes, and conflicts. And while it’s an MMO, a Duty Support system lets you play solo with AI-controlled NPCs. By the time Final Fantasy XIV comes to Xbox Series X/S, Square Enix says the feature will enable players to complete everything from the start of the game up through its most recent Endwalker expansion without ever needing to interact with another human being.
Why did it take so long to get FFXIV on Xbox?
The story of how we got here, however, is a long one. Yoshida was asked as early as 2013 why the game wasn’t on Xbox One. His answer at the time was that Microsoft’s stance on crossplay was too restrictive. “The main reason from our side is that I don’t want the community to be divided; to be split into two or more. For example, one player might be on the PC version, another might be on the PS4 version, and I’m playing the Xbox version – but we’re not able to join the same game servers,” he told RPGSite at the time. “That is just… I just don’t like the idea. I disagree with it.”
That was back when Microsoft was the company seemingly standing in the way of crossplay between the two consoles. Years later, roles were reversed, with Sony pushing back against crossplay for games like Fortnite. Yoshida repeated his requirement for crossplay in a 2017 interview with Kotaku, and things seemed to be progressing in that direction not long after.
Spencer publicly promised to bring the game to Xbox at the X019 fanfest event in London. “We have a great relationship with Yoshida-san and we’re working through what it means to bring a cross-platform MMO, that they’ve run for years,” he told VGC at the time. “It will be one of the games that’s coming and it’s something that I know our Xbox fans will be incredibly excited to see.”
No deal immeidately materialized, however. Yoshida was asked again what the problem was during a 2021 interview around the time Final Fantasy XIV came to PS5. “So I feel bad for saying the same thing every time,” he told Easy Allies. “But we are still in discussions with Microsoft and I feel like our conversations are going in a positive tone.”
The positive tone of those conversations seemingly wasn’t enough to finally get Sony to agree to crossplay though, until now. The two companies also recently reached a 10-year agreement for Call of Duty to keep coming to PlayStation after Microsoft’s acqusition of Activision Blizzard is finalized. Purely a coincidence, I’m sure. Sony, Microsoft, and Square Enix did not immediately respond to requets for comment.
It finally happened. Microsoft has fully ended production of Kinect hardware. And no, you didn’t stumble upon an article from 2014. Yes, it’s 2023 and Microsoft, in case you didn’t know, has been still trying to make Kinect work, just not in the gaming space. Well, today Microsoft has thrown in the towel.
Thank You, PS Plus, For Making My Backlog Even Bigger
A sophisticated motion sensing camera, Kinect first premiered on the Xbox 360 in 2010. While the tech was rather neat, Kinect arguably struggled to appeal to many gamers and gained a reputation for necessitating various shovelware games such as Fable: The Journey. In 2013, Microsoft revealed that the Kinect would ship with each Xbox One. While the new Kinect unit was technically impressive, it once again failed to gain a foothold with, well, just about anyone. Microsoft later stopped bundling the Kinect with Xbox One, and the device moved on to Microsoft’s mixed reality and enterprise solutions. Keeping the Kinect name, Microsoft offered the Azure Kinect Developer Kit in 2019 to those looking to implement its depth-sensing technology in various business environments. And today, that chapter of the Kinect’s life comes to a close.
“As the needs of our customers and partners evolve, we regularly update our products to best support them,” a Microsoft blog announcing the death of the Azure Kinect Developer Kit opens.
But while Azure Kinect Developer Kit has now ended production, the tech seems like it will continue to live on. Microsoft shouted out Orbbec’s new Femto Bolt, a device very similar to the Azure Kinect DK, as providing the hardware necessary for those still interested in working with 3D depth camera technology. Via a dedicated software pipeline, developers will be able to use Azure Kinect DK software on the Femto Bolt. Meanwhile, Microsoft states that it plans to continue providing the necessary software tools to work with Azure Kinect DKs still out there in the wild.
Baldur’s Gate 3, which launched for PC this month and is coming to PlayStation 5 on September 6, has endured a complicated saga in coming to Xbox Series X/S. This was largely attributed to difficulty in making split-screen co-op performant in the Series S version, but new info suggests developer Larian Studios is opting to cut that feature out of the game on Microsoft’s weaker console so it can finally bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to both Xbox platforms before the end of the year.
The Week In Games: What’s Releasing Beyond Baldur’s Gate 3
On Thursday, studio founder Swen Vincke tweeted that after a meeting with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, Larian Studios plans to bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox Series X and S by the end of 2023, but if you’re playing the game on Xbox Series S, that means you won’t be able to play split-screen co-op on the device. This doesn’t seem to preclude online cooperative play, but if you wanted to roll multiple characters alongside your friends on the same system, it looks like you’ll have to have an Xbox Series X. Beyond that, Vincke also confirms that the Xbox version will support cross saves between Steam and Xbox consoles, but not with the PlayStation 5 version that’s set to launch in two weeks.
The idea behind the Xbox Series S was to be a more affordable, albeit less powerful version of Microsoft’s next-generation console, but that naturally comes with some give and take on demanding technical features like ray tracing and higher framerates. However, Microsoft claims it’s committed to supporting the less-powerful system in the coming years, even as the console generation matures and games become more and more technically demanding. In an interview with Eurogamer, Spencer said parity between both its consoles isn’t a requirement the company holds developers to.
“In terms of parity, I don’t think you’ve heard from us or Larian, that this was about parity,” he told Eurogamer. “I think that’s more that the community is talking about it. There are features that ship on X today that do not ship on S, even from our own games, like ray tracing that works on X, it’s not on S in certain games. So for an S customer, they spent roughly half what the X customer bought, they understand that it’s not going to run the same way.”
However, if you look at Microsoft’s published rules on the matter, “mode” parity between Xbox Series X and S games seems to be a requirement for a game to appear on Xbox. The rule in question says developers must “ensure that identical game modes are offered across console types within the generation.” It’s unclear whether or not Microsoft is lifting the rule entirely or is making an exception for Baldur’s Gate 3. Kotaku’sreached out to Larian and Microsoft about the situation and will update the story should we hear back.
For more on Baldur’s Gate 3, check out Kotaku’s review.
Last year, Facebook (now known as Meta) announced that it was adding legs to its ugly virtual reality avatars. Some people were excited. Now a year later, after Meta promised the legs were coming soon, they are finally (sort of) working inside the company’s depressing digital “metaverse”. Should we…cheer?
The Anime Series With Better Metaverses Than Meta, AKA Facebook
Let me take you back to August 2022, around a year after the initial release of Horizon Worlds—Meta’s free, online virtual reality metaverse project. People were dunking on Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg after he posted a selfie from inside Horizon Worlds. The photo looked sad and decidedly ugly, and featured Horizon’s legless, low-fidelity digital avatars. That terrible image got roasted so hard that he later explained that, actually, Facebook’s avatars would be getting a big graphical update (so stop being so mean). In October last year, Zuckerberg showed off the newly improved avatars and also previewed that they would all have working legs. A release date of sometime in 2023 was promised, and then a few days later we learned that the whole video featuring the legs was fake and featured mo-cappedmocapped animations.
Now it’s almost a year later. The buzz around the metaverse concept has long since died and grifters have moved on to AI tech. But as UploadVR reported on August 28, Meta has finally added legs to its horrific online video game. They just…come with a few asterisks.
Meta’s new digital legs come with a lot of restrictions
First, you can’t crouch or jump. I mean, you can, Meta can’t stop you from doing those things while wearing a VR headset. But your in-world avatar’s legs won’t recreate those moves. Secondly, the legs only show up in third-person views, like when other people look at you. So if you look down, you’ll see you still have a lot in common with most protagonists from 1990s shooters. While you can perceive your own legs via in-game mirrors, Meta seems to believe they aren’t needed in first-person.
Tyriel Wood – VR Tech / Meta
Further, the legs are only available to players who have access to v57 of the Horizon public test channel and can only be seen in Horizon Home, not in user-created games or Horizon Worlds. However, Meta did tell UploadVR that these new digital legs will be added to the rest of the game’s worlds over the next few weeks.
That’s a lot of caveats, but I guess, technically, Meta did ship the legs in 2023. So congrats on sticking to a deadline.
Of course, the real question is: How many people in 2023 are actually excited to hop back into Zuck’s boring (and unprofitable) matrix? Even last year we heard reports that Horizon Worlds was basically a ghost town and that Meta’s own staff didn’t like playing or working in the company’s metaverse. Somehow, I doubt crappy virtual legs will change any of that.
Good news! With the latest Star Wars Jedi: Survivor patch, the game is finally achieving a near-consistent 60fps throughout all its action and exploration, translating to a much smoother experience. However, to achieve this some visual cuts were made, and that has added some quirks that might be distracting for some players.
How Alan Wake 2 Builds Upon The ‘Remedy-Verse’
Even before the recent patches, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was a fantastic game and one of my favorites of 2023. Respawn’s sequel to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order expanded on that original game with more planets, lightsabers, enemies, and abilities. It also continued the story of Jedi Cal Kestis as he and his ragtag group fought back the Empire and looked for a place to escape all the violence in the galaxy. Still, as great as Survivor was, the game’s performance was a bit all over the place, especially in its large hub world and during intense fights. Patch 7 seems to fix that by removing ray-traced visual features.
As covered extensively in a new video from Digital Foundry, Jedi Survivor’s latest patch includes big improvements to the game’s performance mode, which is supposed to offer up a higher framerate at the cost of some visual fidelity. As mentioned at the start, the good news is that Patch 7 succeeds, and Jedi: Survivor now runs at a nearly locked 60fps, even in previously troublesome areas. This is fantastic, as it makes it look and feel smoother, which helps a lot in a fast-paced action game like Survivor
Digital Foundry / Lucasfilm / EA
But as also pointed out in the video, Respawn achieved this improved performance by removing ray-traced reflections from Performance mode. Now, on the one hand, this trade-off seems fine as RT lighting and reflections are still in the game, but now only in the game’s Quality mode which runs at 30fps.
Yet, the problem is that some areas of the game without ray-traced lighting look darker than before. Worse, the removal of RT reflections means some areas with shiny floors or water now feature some hard-to-ignore artifacts from the game’s use of screen space reflections.
Personally, I agree with Digital Foundry’s suggestion that Respawn, in a future patch, should turn off SSR on water, as the artifacts are the worst here and it would likely look better without it on at all.
But even with some of these new visual quirks, I’m happy Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s performance mode is now running at 60fps most of the time. I think the visual trade-offs here make sense. And these improvements and tweaks might be a glimpse at how the next-gen game will look when it arrives on PS4 and Xbox One in the future.
If you have kids, you know what Bluey is. For everyone else, it’s an Australian cartoon about a nuclear family of talking dogs who live in a giant bungalow and love to play silly games. It’s cute and clever, and several years after becoming a global phenomenon, it’s at long-last getting a video game adaptation.
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Outright Games announcedmultiplayer puzzle game Bluey: The Videogame in partnership with BBC Studios on September 19, and revealed that it’s coming to PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC on November 17. Up to four players can choose from Bluey, Bingo, Mum (Chile), and Dad (Bandit) t and participate in playable episodes by completing a range of minigames to unlock new costumes, stickers, locations. It sounds like standard kids’ game fair, with the advantage of looking exactly like the beloved show and starring its same voice talent.
Here’s the trailer:
And here’s how the developers describe the game:
Bluey: The Videogame has been designed with flexibility in mind, allowing fans to engage with the game and explore it at their own pace with the ability to jump between story quests, activities, and exploration at any time. Variable difficulty features have been included that allow the game to be accessible and fun for both preschool and older fans including UI on/off toggle, simple written on-screen instructions and full voice-over. Players will be able to utilize physics-based mechanics to manipulate objects, interact with the world around them, add additional challenges to mini-games, and support free-play in the sandbox.
Bluey has three seasons so far, all of them currently airing on Disney Plus with some additional episodes on the way and a fourth season set to air sometime in the future. The show practically pulsates with “hard relate” vibes for a parent, which is the key to making it entertaining for grownups as much as young kids. Although for me it’s always conjured an unlikely but potent mix of guilt and aspiration.
Being a parent is exhausting. Remember the book The Giving Tree? The titular tree gives everything to a child for nothing in return. It quite literally gets chopped up into wood in the end. Hard relate. But Bluey’s dad Bandit always pushes through, laughing, messing around, and indulging the kids in absurdly specific pretend games and scenarios. Some millennial gamers want to be strong and stoic like Kratos. I just want to have the patience and imagination of Bluey’s dad.
Maybe Bluey: The Videogame will teach me how. I can’t wait to give it a try.
Pre-order Bluey: The Videogame:Best Buy | GameStop
Twenty months after it was first announced, Microsoft’s unprecedented deal to buy Call of Duty and Candy Crush publisher Activision Blizzard for $69 billion appears to have beaten its final boss. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority revealed on Friday that it has provisionally approved the tech giant’s latest version of the acquisition, which includes convoluted carve-outs for cloud gaming rights. After tons of dramatic twists and turns, the biggest gaming merger ever looks like it’s finally happening.
The Open World Racing Game That’s Been Gone For A Decade Is Coming Back
“This is a new and substantially different deal, which keeps the cloud distribution of these important games in the hands of a strong independent supplier, Ubisoft, rather than under the control of Microsoft,” Colin Raftery, the CMA’s senior director of mergers, said in a press release. “With additional protections to make sure that the deal is properly implemented, this will maintain the structure of the market, enabling open competition to continue to shape the development of cloud gaming in the years to come, and giving UK gamers the opportunity to access Activision’s games in many different ways, including through cloud-based multigame subscription services.”
The CMA had previously rejected the deal over concerns that acquiring popular gaming franchises like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and more would give Microsoft a monopoly in the cloud gaming space. Microsoft started hinting that it might get around the CMA’s decision by just removing Activision games from the UK entirely, and later sent out rumblings that it was preparing to close the deal even without permission from the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. which had sued it over anti-trust concerns.
The FTC then sued for an injunction to block the deal, leading to an extradordiary multi-day trial in federal court full of testimony by gaming executives from Xbox, PlayStation, Bethesda, and other companies that included an unusual level of behind-the-scenes looks into the normally hyper secretive gaming industry.
How Microsoft saved the Activision Blizzard deal
The judge in the case ended up siding with Microsoft, however, paving the way for it to close the deal in the U.S. and eventually forcing the CMA back into negotiations on a reversal of its previous rejection. According to reporting by Bloomberg, it was all part of a bluffing strategy by Microsoft to ultimately save the deal.
To placate UK regulators, Microsoft has now agreed to sell cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard’s games to Ubisoft. While it can still pay to stream hits like Modern Warfare II and Diablo IV on services like Game Pass, Ubisoft will have final say for the next 15 years, keeping Microsoft from having exclusive control. That complicated carve-out only applies to the UK, however, and regulators said today that their last demand is for Microsoft to offer some sort of enforcement mechanism so that the CMA can check to make sure it is adhering to the terms of the agreement. A final decision for approval will arrive by October 6.
“The CMA’s position has been consistent throughout–this merger could only go ahead if competition, innovation, and choice in cloud gaming was preserved,” Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA, said in a press release. “In response to our original prohibition, Microsoft has now substantially restructured the deal, taking the necessary steps to address our original concerns. It would have been far better, though, if Microsoft had put forward this restructure during our original investigation. This case illustrates the costs, uncertainty and delay that parties can incur if a credible and effective remedy option exists but is not put on the table at the right time.”
Notably, the CMA’s provisional approval comes just one day after UK treasury head, Jeremy Hunt, met with gaming companies in California. The government agency released photographs from the event on social media today. They show Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick as one of the executives in attendance, and the one seated closest to Hunt. The longtime Call of Duty boss threatened earlier this year that the UK would become “death valley” if it did not approve the sale. Kotick is estimated to earn a windfall of $390 million once the deal goes through. That’s over 20 times the $18 million settlement Activision Blizzard agreed to pay the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission following a multi-year investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.
Update 10/13/2023 8:51 a.m. ET: The CMA announced its final approval for the deal today, saying it was satisfied that Microsoft’s new cloud agreement with Ubisoft mitigates the threat of a monopoly in the cloud gaming space. The regulators blamed the tech giant for the process taking so long.
“ Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work,” said CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell. “Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.”
Microsoft now has the greenlight to close the Activision deal on or before its new October 18 deadline.
Over 25 million people have played Sea of Thieves. The pirate ship fantasy sim has some of the most beautiful water you’ve ever seen in a video game. And now Rare’s live-service multiplayer game is finally getting a way for people to play solo. A new mode called Safer Seas will let players explore in private sessions without the threat of PvP starting in December.
Unboxing The Baldur’s Gate 3 Collector’s Edition
“Safer Seas is intended to offer a gentler introduction to Sea of Thieves for new players, as well as providing a quieter map for existing players looking to pursue their own solo adventures,” Mike Chapman, creative director, wrote in an Xbox Wire blog post yesterday. If you’re hoping to get some peaceful fishing done, or complete a few Tall Tales without interference, Safer Seas is the perfect choice.”
Originally set to arrive earlier this year before being delayed by three months, Rare is calling season 10 update its “Super Season.” Going live on October 18, here are three big new features coming to Sea of Thieves in separate installments throughout the end of the year:
Guilds: A captain pledges a ship, letting up to 24 players join together and borrow one another’s vessels and cosmetics even when they’re not online, sharing milestone progress along the way.
Competitive Questing: Players compete to collect Skull of Siren Song artifact components, with the objects cursing the ships they’re onboard and broadcasting those players’ locations across the seas.
Safer Seas: Play Sea of Thieves alone or with friends in a session devoid of competing players, with a max rank of 40 and reduced rewards due to the lessened danger.
The Safer Seas mode in particular could be a huge boon for the game. Despite its massive player-base, Sea of Thieves still has a steep learning curve and requires an intimidating amount of coordination, compounded by the ever-present threat of PvP. Safe Seas doesn’t just remove that danger, it also lets solo-minded players explore its vast and beautiful world without the social anxiety or awkwardness of running into other people. I wish more live-service games offered a similar escape.
After launching back in 2020 on PC via the Epic Games Store, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is finally (three years later…) making its way to Steam in October. Soon, it will be very easy to play this fantastic remake of the first two games in the series on your Steam Deck, no Heroic Games Launcher required!
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Cast your mind back to September 4, 2020. The covid-19 pandemic was still a new and horrible problem, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles had yet to be released, and the world received a new Tony Hawk game in the form of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. It was a good game that recreated the feel of those older titles, but did so using advanced visuals. THPS 1+2 also launched exclusively on the Epic Games Store on PC. And then, uh, well three years passed, covid is still a thing, and it seemed like Activision had forgotten all about THPS 1+2 or releasing it on Steam. But now, either a really long exclusive deal has expired or someone at Activision remembers they could make extra money by bringing the last good Tony Hawk game to more players via a Steam version.
On Tuesday, the official Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Twitter account announced, with little fanfare or hype, that the popular remake would launch on Steam on October 3. The game already has a Steam store page, and players can wishlist THPS 1+2 ahead of next week’s Steam release.
It’s unclear why now, after three years and a lot of radio silence, Activision has decided to bring THPS 1+2 to the PC storefront used by most players. Kotaku has reached out to the publisher for more info.
I guess it’s possible the company signed some three-year deal with Epic, but that seems like far too long for this kind of exclusivity deal, especially for a relatively low-key game. It’s also possible that Activision realized that THPS 1+2 is a perfect fit for the Steam Deck, and putting the game on Valve’s storefront makes it easier for people to buy and play it on the popular portable PC. Or maybe somebody just stumbled upon a sticky note in a desk and went, “Oh shit, right!” and hit a button.
For now, we just don’t know. (It’s obviously because they were worried players would become confused, and try to screw trucks to their Steam Decks -Ed.)
Personally, I’m pretty happy to see THPS 1+2 finally coming to Steam. The idea of having this game easily accessible on my Steam Deck—no weird launchers or tinkering required—sounds wonderful. And hey, maybe this is a sign Activision has plans to make more Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games? Probably not, but I can hope, right?