Microsoft's latest Games with Gold offerings are now available, giving you a host of freebies for your Gold subscription. This month's inclusions offer a few retro throwbacks along with some action games from older generations. As always, some of the games are available throughout the entire month while others will rotate in and out midway, so check the schedule to make sure you don't miss out on any.
The Xbox One games include Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, an 8-bit style game modeled loosely after Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. It's a prequel, both spiritually and plot-wise, to the upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and we found it rather good. It will be available throughout the entire month. On February 16, Super Bomberman R joins the rotation. It's an update of the classic Bomberman franchise, best used as a madcap party game so you can curse your friends for bombing you.
On Xbox 360, you get Assassin's Creed Rogue, a game that came out alongside the widely derided Assassin's Creed Unity. It was an interesting game in its own right, though, and explored more of the Templars' perspective. It's only available through February 15, after which it will be replaced by the original Xbox game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.
After cooking for half a decade, Crackdown 3 is almost here. Trailers have shown that it will more closely resemble the first game than its divisive sequel, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that that's a good thing on face value. Commercials play up the comic-book cop connection with help from Terry Crews' over-the-top personality, which effortlessly conveys the explosive attitude fans are apparently asking for. Now that I've played Crackdown 3 for a few hours it's easy to identify similarities to the 2007 original, but rather than the campaign stealing the show, it's the competitive multiplayer component that will be my reason for paying attention to Crackdown 3 at launch.
The first trailer for Hobbs and Shaw is here. The movie is the first spin-off from the blockbuster Fast & Furious series and stars Dwayne Johnson as Agent Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as mercenary-for-hire Owen Shaw.
The trailer delivers a ton of action--it's three minutes long, so be warned if you don't want to know much about the movie going in. It sets up the bad guy played by Idris Elba, a villain called Brixton who has been given some kind of genetic upgrade. Hobbs and Shaw aren't exactly friends, but they are brought together to stop him, and the rest of trailer delivers a non-stop barrage of stunts, fights, and over-the-top action, plus a lot of self-aware one-liners. Check it out above.
Hobbs & Shaw is directed by Deadpool 2's David Leitch, and also stars Vanessa Kirby (Mission Impossible: Fallout), Eiza González (Baby Driver), and Eddie Marsan (Deadpool 2). It releases on August 2, 2019.
In related news, it was confirmed this week that production on Fast & Furious 9 starts this month. The next movie in the main series is set for release in 2020 and stars Vin Deisel once more, but won't feature Johnson or Statham.
Sony has reported its most recent earnings to investors, including an update on the number of PlayStation 4 consoles it has sold worldwide and how many people subscribe to PlayStation Plus. More than 90 million PS4 units have been sold--a figure we already knew--and now we know over a third of those people subscribe to PS Plus.
As of December 31, 2018, 36 million people are paid members of PlayStation's premium membership plan. That's an increase of nearly 5 million people since the same date in 2017.
By comparison, Nintendo announced recently that a total of 8 million people are paid members of Nintendo Switch Online, though of course PlayStation Plus has been available for far longer, with a lifespan of close to nine years rather than Switch Online's four-and-a-half months. Microsoft says Xbox Live has 64 million active users, but does not disclose how many of those pay for Xbox Live Gold.
Zen Studios has announced its upcoming RPG, titled Operencia: The Stolen Sun, will release as an Xbox One console exclusive. The game will also be enhanced on One X and launch day one on Xbox Game Pass.
"Much of our development team grew up on classic RPG series like Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, and Eye of the Beholder--and we're just not seeing many games like those these days, especially on console. So not only would creating a CRPG for Xbox One be something we want to play--it would also fill a void," Zen Studios creative director Chris Baker wrote in a blog post.
Operencia represents yet another title that the Epic Games Store has managed to nab away from Steam. The RPG was originally scheduled to launch on Valve's store when it was first revealed during the Kinda Funny Games Showcase. However, in a blog post, Zen Studios announced that Operencia caught the eye of Epic after the showcase, and a deal was made. Epic has quickly become a competitor to Steam's dominance of the PC gaming market by grabbing impressive exclusives, like Hades and Ashen, and securing triple-A games that were originally scheduled for Steam, such as The Division 2 and Metro Exodus. Valve described the loss of Exodus as "unfair" to customers.
The upcoming spin-off RPG starring an ensemble of Persona characters, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, was recently confirmed to come to North America and Europe later this year. It's the Nintendo 3DS exclusive that gives the casts adorable chibi designs and brings them together in an alternate, sinister movie-themed dimension for a wild ride. But despite Persona 3, 4, 5, and all other spin-off games having an English voice cast, Persona Q2 will not.
Atlus USA confirmed to us and other outlets that the game will only feature the Japanese voice track with English subtitles. This may come as a disappointment to some fans, especially since the localized versions of Persona 3 and Persona 4 had English voice work exclusively and didn't offer the opportunity to enjoy the Japanese voice overs. It's not entirely surprising, however. Considering the deep cast of characters spanning three other games and the fact that the 3DS is at the end of its life cycle, bringing in the necessary number of voice actors may not have been cost-effective for Atlus, unfortunately.