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Editorial

Xbox Games for the Single Players in September

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Xbox

Microsoft is being roundly criticised for a lack of must-have games ahead of the Xbox One X’s launch later this year, but that does not necessarily make the release schedule entirely barren. The Xbox One has some great-looking titles lined up for September, and the best of them are below.

MARVEL VS CAPCOM: INFINITE

Long awaited yet much maligned, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is the latest entry in Capcom’s fan-service-based crossover fighting series. Despite widespread concerns, the game remains one of 2017’s flagship fighters, alongside Tekken 7 and the home release of Pokkén Tournament.

Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite smashes together two distinct universes in an explosion of colour and stylised graphics. For the latest iteration, Ant-Man’s creation (or Iron Man’s in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) Ultron forms an alliance with Mega Man X villain Sigma, with the two using the Infinity Stones to merge into a single being bent on eradicating organic life. To combat the threat, Marvel and Capcom heroes join forces.

The Marvel portion of the roster takes clear inspiration from recent films, with Ghost Rider and Nova the only characters so far revealed to not be present in the MCU. Capcom’s fighters are a more diverse group, including Ghosts ‘n Goblins’s Arthur, Darkstalkers’s Morrigan, Dead Rising’s Frank West, and Devil May Cry’s Dante (featuring his classic appearance).

A notable change from the most recent entries in the series is Infinite’s two-character tag teams, as opposed to the three from earlier incarnations. A potentially game-changing new feature is the incorporation of Infinity Stones into the gameplay, each of which has a different effect that can be charged to significantly affect the flow of combat.

Pre-release criticism has focused on the lack of character detail (which will be addressed in a day-one patch) and a perceived simplification of controls, though whether those design decisions will influence high-level play remains to be determined.

With a story mode expected to feature multiple hours of cinematics, as well as mission and arcade modes, the game promises a wealth of content for single-players to enjoy when it releases on September 19 for Xbox One, alongside PC and PlayStation 4.

DISHONORED: DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER

Announced at E3 earlier this year, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is billed as the final chapter in the betrayal of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin saga that began in 2012. Despite having powerful narrative ties to the previous entries of the franchise, Arkane has designed this standalone expansion to be friendly to newcomers.

Players take the role of Billie Lurk—second-in-command to the first game’s antagonist, Daud—in a new quest to kill the mysterious, magic-granting figure known as the Outsider. Although the mission comes from Daud, the exact reasons behind it are unknown at the present time. The expansion is expected to explore the history of the Outsider and explain his existence.

With a new protagonist comes a new suite of abilities. Billie’s previously-revealed skills of Blink and Thorns will be supplemented by a range of powers granted by the Void artefacts that have been grafted onto her arm and eye. New abilities include Semblance, whereby she assumes another character’s face and body for a short period; Displace, which allows her to teleport while leaving behind a shadow self; and a Voltaic Gun that shoots electricity. However, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider will also include an Original Game Plus mode, giving players the option to play through the new missions using the set of skills available in Dishonored 2.

One significant departure from previous games is the new Contracts feature, which is similar to HITMAN’s Elusive Targets mode (though without the online requirement) in that players are given a single chance to fulfil the mission’s objective in each playthrough.

Despite being originally conceived as DLC for Dishonored 2, the scale of Death of the Outsider grew enough to make it standalone, and, as such, the title is expected to provide a hefty load of content when it arrives for Xbox One, as well as PC and PlayStation 4, on September 15.

CUPHEAD

The fact that Cuphead is one of only a handful of Xbox exclusives remaining in 2017 would almost guarantee it a place on this list. However, the unique 1930s-inspired animation, classic gameplay style, and single-player focus cement Cuphead as one of the must-have games for Xbox owners in September.

Developed by the debut team at StudioMDHR Entertainment, Cuphead uses a hand-drawn aesthetic unlike anything seen in games before. The visual design is inspired by the work of Fleischer Studios, which pioneered rotoscoped animation with iconic characters such as Betty Boop and Popeye. The simultaneously realistic and surrealistic styling of those early forays into cartoons is recreated in Cuphead, though the game eschews humans in favour of anthropomorphised tableware.

Despite the unique appearance, the project appears to rely on established tropes of run-and-gun gameplay with missions strung together using an RPG-styled overworld. While some levels will involve platforming elements, the game is built around boss battles, with the developers planning to include around 30. Those bosses are present for a greater purpose than simply providing a formidable challenge.

Players slip into the porcelain shoes of the eponymous character after it loses a bet with the Devil. The game revolves around Cuphead’s quest to repay that debt, and the boss battles are the key to doing so. Although the game is designed primarily as a single-player experience, a co-operative mode is included, with the second user controlling Mugman, a palette-swapped version of the main character.

Cuphead is scheduled to arrive on Xbox One and PC on September 29.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

Anyone looking for a fine racing experience ahead of October’s Forza Motorsport 7 is spoiled for choice this month, with NASCAR Heat 2 out on September 12, Baja: Edge of Control HD available two days later, and Project CARS 2 (see the list of this month’s PC games) arriving on September 22.  Meanwhile, Destiny 2 brings back shared-world shooting on September 6.


Let us know what Xbox One games you have on your radar this month in the comments below!

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Editorial

Five Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in August 2019

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August

August is packed with interesting titles big and small, so without further ado, go, go, go!

RAD

Release Date: August 20, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One

Want some glowy, mutate-y, 80s-infected roguelite action? Look no further than Double Fine Productions’ latest stylish action-adventure. Like so many of Double Fine’s releases lately, Rad combines a popular genre with the studio’s mildly-offbeat weirdness. 

In this case, Rad takes the winning “Not-Quite-Roguelike” formula of The Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy and makes it look a little like 2017’s underrated Hob. Players take on the role of a teenager sent out into a post-post-apocalyptic wasteland to forge a path for humanity. They must explore amongst a terrifying mutant bioscape that resembles Fallout if it took place in the pages of 2000AD.

That might sound like a hat on a hat, but Rad distinguishes itself by going full ’80s cheese: Double Fine Productions was practically made for this. Neon pervades the landscape, currency takes the form of cassette tapes, and being published by Bandai handily acquits them for using a Pac-Man decal on the avatar’s t-shirt.

As with other rogue-lites, players can mix and match powerups to experiment with different strategies, from spider legs to exploding skulls, to all manner of passive bonuses as well. With this rather standard progression in place, then comes the lore of the world and the story to be revealed; which in typical Double Fine fashion is much deeper than it seems.

Rad is less interested in innovating a popular genre than delivering what makes this genre so much fun with the added layer of Double Fine polish. Hopefully, we can all fall in love with the game the way its inhabitants seem to be infatuated with the ’80s.

Oninaki

Release Date: August 22, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Switch

Here is an unabashedly weird, smaller-scale game from Square Enix’s Tokyo RPG Factory, possibly the smallest developer under Square that is still making console-release games. Both of the studio’s previous games (I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear) were essentially ‘budget’ titles, without the pretensions of matching up with Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Obviously, the team has a passion for old school RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Mana or PlayStation-era Final Fantasy, but Tokyo RPG Factory has not quite found its groove yet.

This could change with Oninaki, which despite a Final Fantasy X inspired story about liberating dead souls before they become monsters, has enough fresh ideas to stand out in 2019. To begin with, the game is an action-RPG, rather than another ATB-based affair (gamers have plenty of that this year with the re-release of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX). Additionally, the world of Oninaki looks gorgeous, budget-release or no, less generic than the washed-out chibi look of Setsuna or Sphear.

However the game turns out, it looks to be more of its own thing than either of Tokyo RPG Factory’s other games to this point. Worst case scenario, Oninaki is a buggy but interesting failure. Best case, players have a dark and quirky RPG to sink their teeth into until the next major release comes along.

Control

Release Date: August 27, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

This is the big one. We have written before about how much we love Alan Wake, but the excitement for Control has become greater than any other title in Remedy Entertainment’s oeuvre. Of course, the fact that Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break all boasted excellent action mechanics does help.

Max Payne famously made a banquet out of bullet time, while Alan Wake innovated the ‘action’ side of action-adventure almost as much as Half-Life 2. Quantum Break seemed like a speed bump on Remedy’s road to success—because no one asked for a series of television episodes in the middle of their game—but the time-based powers and fine encounter design were still a potent mix.

With the same high bar for action and level design, Control combines the best parts of its predecessors like a video game Voltron. Much more than Remedy’s design pedigree, however, Control simply ignites the imagination on its own merits.

Deep within the sprawling, non-Euclidean interior of the Oldest House, players must fight to stop a mysterious energy called the Hiss from invading our world. As with Alan Wake, the game draws from a variety of sources—this time weird fiction and in particular the ‘box of unexplained things’ tropes of The X-Files, SCP or Warehouse 13.

In the spirit of these episodic stories, Control is also Remedy’s first experiment with a Metroidvania structure. As the game progresses, protagonist Jesse Faden acquires skills that unlock new areas and side-missions, as well as just being cool powers for use in combat.

Above all, the best part is that the game is not a Microsoft exclusive but available on both home consoles at launch. Also, please send us a Switch release, pronto.

Astral Chain

Release Date: August 30, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Thank you, PlatinumGames, for always giving gamers that sweet, sweet spectacle action. Not a whole lot can be said about Platinum’s trademark design that has not already been more eloquently described elsewhere—but in an age where even Capcom’s Devil May Cry seeks the heights of meticulous detail and realistic human faces, the world could use more developers like Platinum.

Focused on varied and elaborate game mechanics rather than always improving graphics tech, Platinum has continued to turn out singular games that truly evolve the stylish action subgenre, from the precise and silly Bayonetta series, to Nier Automata‘s surprise hit, even through cartoony misfires such as The Wonderful 101 and Transformers Devastation (both of which were still very good, for the record).

Quite simply, Astral Chain is another helping of action heaven from the masters, though with plenty of interesting features to call its own. The game takes place during an otherworldly invasion of incredibly designed monsters; some of which have been harnessed for the humans to fight back. Each of these captured monsters, known as Legions, offer the player different fighting styles as they explore and defend a futuristic city modeled off Tokyo

Alright, fine, that last part is less original, but what makes Astral Chain more than just Devil May Cry wearing another costume is the investigative element. The player character is a police officer and can lose “duty points” if they cause too much chaos during the action portion of the game. To make amends, players switch back and forth between action scenes and mystery scenes where they explore the city and solve crimes.

Will this combination of hardcore action and police work mesh perfectly, or are we looking at a lesser Platinum—fun, but disjointed? Gamers only have to wait a month to find out.

The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan

Release Date: August 30, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Dropped at more or less the same time as this title back in 2015, Until Dawn seemed doomed. There had already been the wet thud of The Order: 1886 back in February, this game also seemed like a prime example of choice-based David Cage nonsense, and worst of all, it was too early for spooky season.

We were proven wrong. Until Dawn was not only fun, not only a pretty accurate video game adaptation of the teen-slasher horror genre, but also beat Quantic Dream at their own game in terms of delivering an engrossing thriller with a constantly (if sometimes illusory) branching story.

Now, Supermassive Games are finally back after their trip around ‘Weird Sony Land’ with a spiritual successor to Until Dawn, and Man of Medan sounds like it can fit the bill in every way. Once again, the story centres on a cast of disposable teens as players attempt to not have them all dead by the end, though this time taking place on a ghost ship: an upgrade over a cabin in the woods if you ask me.

Play functions more or less the same as Until Dawn, a mix of exploration and dialogue choices, switching control between the various characters as the story moves forward. There are a couple of multiplayer modes, but the single-player experience is strong enough.

According to Supermassive, The Dark Pictures is an anthology that will see new titles at a roughly six-month cadence from here on, so expect to hear about a followup to Man of Medan sooner rather than later. Spookums for everybody!


August is positively jam-packed with games, so maybe we can try and hit a few more interesting single player releases. There is cult-infiltration action game The Church in the Darkness coming on August 2, followed by the epic 4X Age of Wonders: Planetfall on PC, and the wacko President-in-a-mech game Metal Wolf Chaos XD on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, both releasing August 6.

On August 8, Nintendo Switch owners can dive into Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition, and on the 13th PC gamers get Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, a prequel to 2015’s space sim Rebel Galaxy. Fan favourite studio Gunfire Games has yet another action game coming, their procedural, Souls-ish Remnant: From the Ashes, releasing on August 20.

PS4 and Xbox One players finally get to play The Bard’s Tale IV on August 27, and come August 30 is the intriguing video game adaptation of Blair Witch releases on PC and Xbox One.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion on our community Discord server.

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