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News

Leclerc’s Virtual GP annihilation deserves great credit

The introduction of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi to Formula 1’s Virtual GP last weekend meant it was a step above the franchise’s debut two weeks ago. But a dominant performance from Esports newcomer Leclerc stole the show

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc needed just eight days of practice to annihilate the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix field and take victory on his competitive Esports debut.

Renault junior Guanyu Zhou was a worthy winner of F1’s first-ever Virtual GP – aimed at filling the void left by the postponement of the real-life F1 season. However, that first race was a frenetic lottery, labelled farcical by many and for good reason. Three-time grand prix winner Johnny Herbert cutting Turn 1 to storm from the back of the grid to first place tells you all you need to know about the merit of succeeding in that race.

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PC

Here's Why Halo: MCC's Recent Update Was So Huge

In March, Halo developer 343 Industries released a gigantic update for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The update was 60 GB, which makes it much bigger than some brand-new games. Some people expressed frustration over this. After all, even a blazing-fast internet connection would require quite a while to download such a large update.

The studio has now shared more insight on why that update was so large and what fans can expect in terms of file sizes going forward. Design director Max Szlagor said said in a blog post that the studio is always trying to make file sizes smaller, but it’s not always possible.

“With such a large surface area of game, and the scope of changes that need to be made this can make them rather large,” Szlagor said. “Whenever core game data files are updated, this usually means a larger update. We manage this process very carefully to minimize the amount of times this happens. But it is one of those things that can come up.”

Thankfully, Halo: MCC has a system called “Intelligent Install” that allows players to choose which parts of the game they want to download. MCC comprises six different games: Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3 ODST, and Halo 4. This latest 60 GB update was mandatory for everyone, but new players–or those who uninstall MCC to free up space–can use the Intelligent Install system to only install what they want to play.

Szlagor said Microsoft will try to be “as mindful as we can” about the size of MCC updates, but at the end of the day, the company cannot guarantee there won’t be other massive file sizes in the future.”

Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also has seen some truly massive updates, too, as the Season 2 update was 100 GB on some platforms. For its part, developer Infinity Ward apologized for the large file size, and said future updates could be smaller.

As games become more and more sophisticated and grow in terms of scope, file sizes are likely to expand as well with next-generation titles. With that in mind, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X will feature expandable storage, though you need to buy a proprietary card to do so.

As more and more people stay home from work and school amid the COVID-19 crisis, Xbox Live is experiencing “record” numbers. To help mitigate additional server strain, Microsoft is apparently asking its publishing partners to hold back their big updates until off-peak hours.

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Mobile

Fortnite: The Shark, Gorgeous Gorge, Rapid's Rest Locations Guide

Fortnite’s Week 7 challenges have arrived on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile. This week brings us the first batch of Skye’s Adventure challenges, and one of the seemingly trickier missions asks you to visit three specific locations: The Shark, Rapid’s Rest, and Gorgeous Gorge. If you need help tracking those places down, we’ve put together this map and guide to show you where to go.

Where Are The Shark, Rapid’s Rest, And Gorgeous Gorge Locations?

As usual, the areas you need to visit to complete this challenge are spread out across the map, but they’re not too difficult to find. The Shark is the most obvious; it’s the island in the northwest corner of the map, in grid square B1. Gorgeous Gorge is located between The Agency and Lazy Lake in grid square E5, and Rapid’s Rest is directly southeast of it in grid square G6. You can see where all three areas are on the map below.

How To Complete The Challenge

Now that we know where The Shark, Rapid’s Rest, and Gorgeous Gorge are located, the challenge is quite simple. All you need to do to complete it is visit all three areas. You don’t need to perform any kind of action in each place or visit them within a single match, either, so you can clear the mission without any trouble just by landing at each of the locations across different matches.

Season 2 of Fortnite Chapter 2 is slated to end this month, so there’s still a little time left to complete any weekly challenges you may not have gotten to yet. If you need help mopping those up, you can find more maps and guides in our Fortnite Season 2 challenges roundup.

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  • Fortnite: The Shark, Rapid's Rest, And Gorgeous Gorge Locations Guide

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Xbox

Mortal Shell Looks Like A Cross Between Dark Souls And Warframe

From developers behind Metro: Exodus, Ghost of Tsushima, World of Warcraft, and more comes Mortal Shell–an action-RPG with Dark Souls influences, set for launch later this year on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

From developer Cold Symmetry, Mortal Shell includes the deliberate combat that has been popularized by From Software’s Souls series, with role-playing elements that let you upgrades weapons and skills as you explore a non-linear open-world. The reveal trailer below sets its tone well, with a more horror-focused atmosphere than that of its influences.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/snpXO73u5sw

One aspect of Mortal Shell that stands out is the shells themselves. You’ll physically wear the empty bodies of fallen warriors, each of which will play with different fighting styles and abilities. You can get comfortable with a shell and upgrade it further, letting you choose your style of play and adapt accordingly with items and weapons on top of it.

Mortal Shell has been in development for over two years, with Cold Symmetry comprising of only 15 employees. It’s three co-founders–Andrew McLennan-Murray, Anton Gonzalez, and Vitaly Bulgarov–are excited to finally show off the studio’s work. “The last two years have been a time of non-stop growth, full of shocking revelations of sheer complexity that goes into creating a video game that you, yourself, would really enjoy playing,” a press release from the studio reads.

Mortal Shell isn’t too far away either, with a planned launch in Q3 2020. You can apply to play the beta on the game’s official website, although details of the test are not yet known.

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News

Ex-Oculus Exclusive The Under Presents Coming to SteamVR

Tender Claws’ eccentric VR theater, The Under Presents, is extending its run of live performances and coming to new headsets to boot.

The experience, which was previously exclusive to Oculus Rift and Quest, will be arriving on SteamVR on April 16. There it will offer official integration with the Valve Index and HTC Vive, as well as, obviously, the Oculus Rift. Not only that but the game’s use of live actors offering daily performances has been extended until the end of May. Check it out in the trailer below.

The Under Presents is a little like a VR variety show, serving up a diverse mix of experiences occasionally featuring live actors. It includes everything from live music to minigames, all designed with Tender Claws’ staple style, first seen in Virtual Virtual Reality. Not only that but you can experience all of this with friends using online, cross-platform multiplayer.

But don’t worry, the app will still run with pre-recorded performances once the live portion is over. You’ll be able to experience everything aside from the spontaneity that comes with the live portion. Still, given the current situation the world is in, this is a rare chance to see art live. If you’re missing the arts, this might be a good way to get your fill for now. Besides, it’s unlike anything else you’ll find on headsets.

Will you be checking out The Under Presents on SteamVR? Or do you already have it on Quest or Rift? Let us know in the comments below!

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Categories
Reviews

Final Fantasy 7 Remake review: a flawed, but fascinating, reimagining of a classic

1997’s Final Fantasy 7 was always audacious, a game ahead of its time.

I can see what Final Fantasy 7 was meant to be when I replay the original, not despite the blocky character models and the awkwardly inserted pre-rendered interludes and backgrounds, but because of them. I’ve always seen beauty in the parts that fall short, the moments where you can sense the developers’ vision of what the game could be hitting the edges of what was possible at the time.

Playing the original release of Final Fantasy 7 in 2020 reveals a game with the energy of someone trying to create a blockbuster with the resources of a high school play. The vision, and the scope, of an epic was always there. The technology was still being developed. It’s that tension that still makes the original game one of the most interesting experiences of its era. The hardware was powerful for its time, but the team already wanted — and probably needed — more.

So what happens when those technical limitations are gone, replaced with 23 years of progress?

Final Fantasy 7 Remake happens, but how you feel about Square Enix’s effort to remake Final Fantasy 7 today — greatly expanded and unhindered by the technology of yesteryear — may say more about your feelings on technology and nostalgia than the game itself. You may see the original as a timeless masterwork or a dated relic, and the lens through which you view this second chance to get it “right” will depend on what you think was “wrong” about the game in the first place.

Keeping what works

One of the most remarkable things about Remake is that, despite expanding the original game’s opening sections many times over, it still feels extremely faithful to the original.

Remake takes the first six hours or so of the original game—the part that takes place entirely in the stratified, metal city of Midgar—and expands them into a roughly 40-hour narrative. The rest of Final Fantasy 7’s story will be told in future games. And, though it’s embellished with several new narrative detours, the broad strokes of the story are mostly the same.

You primarily play as Cloud Strife, a reticent mercenary with spiky hair and a mysterious past. Cloud falls in with a group called Avalanche— who are either brave resistance fighters or cowardly eco-terrorists, depending on who you ask — to prevent the Shinra Electric Power Company from sucking the planet dry of an important natural resource called mako. But Cloud is non-ideological, at least at first. He’s just there for the money.

[Ed. note: Final Fantasy 7 is a very old game, but some of the details discussed in this review could be considered very light spoilers.]

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ERgrFVhL-n4%3Frel%3D0

Cloud’s characterization here is tricky, and only partially successful. He needs to be emotionally distant, because his unavailability is a crucial part of his character arc, but he also has to hold our attention as the central figure of the narrative. And while the original game got to take Cloud through his full journey as a character, Remake is stuck with the Cloud we know at the beginning of that journey. He too often ends up feeling like a blank slate, a stand-in for a general “hero” character, but thankfully he’s surrounded by much more expressive characters who pick up most of the slack.

There’s Barret, the head of Cloud’s Avalanche cell. Barret always felt like a clunky stereotype, with his tendency for furious outbursts and confrontational language, even in 1997. Square Enix was overly fond of this character type at the time: See also Aya’s partner Daniel from the 1998 game Parasite Eve.

That stereotype didn’t entirely define Barret then, and it certainly doesn’t now. We’re given more time to see him being tender with his daughter Marlene in the remake and, while many of us may have rolled our eyes at his angry lectures about the fate of the planet before, it’s now much easier to relate to his righteous outrage at a company that is aggressively pushing the world into an ecological crisis from which it can’t recover. Barret still suffers from some outdated racist characterizations, but the expanded scope of this section of the story at least gives him more to do, and more time to show his humanity outside of what was originally little more than a caricature.

Tifa was always my favorite member of the Avalanche crew because of her no-nonsense demeanor and her tough physicality, and she’s fine here once again, as is Aerith, the flower girl with a deep connection to the planet and a crucial role to play in its fate.

For all of this game’s expanded length, however, I didn’t come away with an enriched or newly complicated understanding of these characters. They’re familiar, and I was glad to see them again and to spend time with them, but nothing this game offers with regard to them took any chances or meaningfully affected my impression of who they are.

Related

Final Fantasy 7: An oral history

That’s less a criticism of Remake than it is high praise for the original which, in its comparatively lean six-hour Midgar intro, already made Tifa and Aerith feel like characters I was going to remember for the rest of my life.

Over time, Cloud gradually gets more personally invested in Avalanche’s struggle, and finds that a figure who has played some mysterious role in his past, the enigmatic Sephiroth, is on his own destructive quest on behalf of the planet. But Remake ends just where the original’s narrative really gets going, and turning FF7s introduction into a full release presents some interesting storytelling challenges. Without spoiling anything, it’s fascinating to see the credits for this release roll right when you originally glimpsed the world map beyond Midgar in the original game.

The moment that once offered a thrilling feeling of liberation as things really opened up has been replaced by … well, a new climax that exists as part of the larger, new story. Remake delivers an ending that makes me feel as if I’ve earned a temporary, but significant, victory, while also being clear that there’s more to come.

The whole thing still seems stretched, sadly. Most of Remake’s added running time comes not from meaningful new explorations of familiar characters and their relationships, but from things that feel tangential to the main story. For instance, an entirely new quest finds you learning a great deal about a character named Leslie, who didn’t appear in the original game at all, and who works in the service of crime lord Don Corneo.

Taken on its own terms, it offers interesting insight into Leslie’s conflicted loyalties and nicely complicates a supporting character who might otherwise have seemed simple, but it also feels a bit superfluous to the game’s narrative core.

Leslie could be removed from the game completely and the story would still work, and we know that for a fact because we’ve already played that game. What we don’t know is whether his character has only begun a larger arc that will pay off in a larger way in future releases. It’s important to remember that we’re stuck trying to judge these changes without knowing everything about how the story plays out, so some criticisms, or even some praise, should be considered temporary pending the release of future games.

Image: Square Enix

Where Remake does do some great work enriching our understanding of characters from the original game is with Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, the supporting members of Cloud’s Avalanche cell, who were only vague character sketches before. Here, an early detour to the home of Jessie’s parents not only lets us see a suburban neighborhood where people live in relative luxury compared to those in the slums down below; it also gives us a clear sense of just what Jessie is fighting for, and what she has personally sacrificed for her political ideals. Even the people who benefit, at least superficially, from the existing power structure have reason to overthrow it.

The opportunity to spend more time with these characters early on becomes crucial later in the story as the battle between Shinra and Avalanche escalates, and the possibility that some characters could die becomes more real. More characters are now more human, and this raises the stakes of the story substantially, although the boss battles do everything they can to deflate that sense of urgency — we’ll get to that in a bit.

Painting with a more detailed brushes

Reviewing this game in the traditional sense is complicated due to the massive shadow cast by the original, but at least the creative team is aware of that. For all its new narrative content, it’s all but impossible to consider Remake as a new, standalone work, because it is so clearly, and so often, working to engage with our familiarity with, and nostalgia for, the original.

So maybe, to look at this release critically, we have to start at the beginning. What actually makes Final Fantasy 7 so beloved? What should the aims of this kind of remake be? What should be preserved, and what should be erased? It may not even be possible to separate what so many of us loved about the original release from the technical aspects of its creation, especially since removing those limitations changes the game in so many fundamental ways.

The remake trades the original’s various, and usually static, camera angles for a more modern, and now-standard, third-person perspective. But while the original’s cameras may have been borne out of necessity — due to the game’s use of pre-rendered backgrounds that were required to show that much detail on screen — the constantly shifting perspective gave the original a sort of kinetic visual energy that’s lacking in the remake. The first release, to overuse a term, is much more cinematic, despite its relatively primitive looks.

Image: Square Enix

There’s power and meaning to seeing Cloud as a tiny figure far below you, dwarfed by the industrial machinery of the mako reactor, early in the original game. There was artistry and creativity in those choices about how to frame different scenes. It was directed, in other words, even if that direction was created out of necessity. The new camera angle has virtues of its own, though. While the original game’s perspective can keep you at a bit of a remove, in Remake, as the people of Midgar’s slums suffer, you’re right there in the thick of it with them, moving through crowds as people lament their inability to find work, or express the trauma of living in such violent and unstable times.

So the remake gives as much as it takes. There are visually stunning moments here that weren’t possible in the original. Late in the game, after a colossal disaster has left much of Midgar’s landscape in ruins, you can look down and see buildings piled atop each other far below you like a mess of children’s building blocks. It’s a gutting sight to behold.

Characters have more freedom to show emotion due to the huge amount of detail made possible by modern hardware. When stunning gold and purple sunlight streams in over the horizon of Midgar after part of the massive metal plate blocking the view is removed, you feel the ways in which the world our heroes call home is experiencing massive, irrevocable change .. for good or ill. Updated visuals aren’t always just there for their own sake; Square Enix has found some added meaning in the new tools at their disposal for this release.

Other aspects of the game and its story benefit from the Remake treatment as well, perhaps none more than the somewhat infamous Wall Market section.

In the original game, Cloud and Aerith come to Wall Market to aid Tifa, who has offered herself up as a “bride” to the lecherous crime lord Don Corneo in order to extract some vital information from him, and Cloud ends up dressing in feminine garb to be allowed into his mansion. The original game suggested that Cloud’s need to dress as a woman was something to be discussed in shameful whispers, and the way it mocked the “manly” men at the local gym for possessing a feminine wig that Cloud must win doesn’t age very well.

Cloud’s quest to gain entrance to Don Corneo’s quarters is now significantly more elaborate. He must earn the approval of Andrea Rhodea, a man who runs a local establishment called the Honey Bee Inn. Earning Rhodea’s respect means sharing the stage with him in a simple rhythm game dance number, and the wonderful thing about this edit is that the sequence with two men dancing together isn’t played for laughs at all, but is instead presented as something both joyous and fun.

Image: Square Enix

Cloud is then transformed into “a vision of beauty” by Rhodea’s crew in an upbeat, sexy scene, and when Rhodea tells our newly transformed hero that true beauty is a thing without shame, and that Cloud should never be afraid of it, my withered transgender heart grew three sizes. An out of touch joke is turned into a sincere and fun moment of growth and expression in the Remake, which is quite a tonal shift from the original game. A tremendously welcome one.

I wish I felt that all of Remake’s efforts to expand on the original were this vital and successful, but many of them just weigh the game down and interrupt the effective, economical pacing of the original.

Remember the sight of a giant robot hand in the ruined underpass that Cloud and Aerith pass through? It was a wonderful throwaway detail that helped flesh out the world, but it’s now been expanded into a series of basic puzzles in which you must take control of large mechanical hands to move objects and lift Aerith to places where she can lower a ladder for Cloud. It’s these moments where Remake’s philosophy that “more is more” starts to show its own limitations.

I was sometimes reminded of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which takes J.R.R. Tolkien’s genteel children’s book and turns it into three epic, bombastic blockbusters, seemingly failing to understand that it was the relative quaintness of the book that many of us actually adored. Just because the team now has more freedom to show something, or turn a background detail into a puzzle or side-quest, doesn’t mean that it always should, and the result is often self-indulgent.

And perhaps nowhere is Remake’s tendency to embiggen everything, regardless of the tonal cost it has on the overall experience, more apparent than in combat.

Everything larger than everything else

Combat now happens in real time, a huge shift from the original’s turn-based design, but you can only guard, evade, or use standard physical attacks when a fight begins. Your ATB (or Active Time Battle) gauge fills as you attack or take damage, and full segments can then be used to cast spells, use items, or take advantage of your special abilities.

You only control one character directly at a time, but you can switch between your party members at will, and time slows to a crawl when you pull up menus to spend your ATB gauge charges or to issue commands to other characters. Combat often turns into a fairly simple affair of using the Assess ability to view an enemy’s elemental weaknesses, exploiting those weaknesses via magic to fill its stagger gauge, and then whaling on it to finish it off. It’s more active, but is that what we’re looking for? Is that what Final Fantasy 7 needs? I’m not so sure. It’s different, but not necessarily better.

The problem with Remake’s combat isn’t one of mechanics, but pacing. This game loves its boss battles. You may think that the original FF7 loved its boss battles, and it does, but Remake game really, really loves its boss battles. Practically every boss fight against a giant mech or a malevolent spirit or a possessed house or yet another giant mech is a multi-stage affair in which you can feel the team straining, as the battle wears on and the enemy shifts from one attack pattern to another to another, to make the battle feel tremendously epic, as if this is some threat the likes of which your party and the world has never faced before.

There are diminishing returns for this kind of approach, however, and when every boss encounter is ramped up to the extreme, eventually epic just becomes another word for exhausting. It’s hard to feel like the stakes are being raised by each battle when you know a bigger one is just an hour or two away or, even worse, a comparable one has recently taken place.

Image: Square Enix

Remake also adds side quests to Cloud’s time in Midgar, but their effect on the overall experience is negligible. Side quests can be a way to deepen our sense of the world and the people who live there, but only if they’re used well.

Side quests in Remake are awkwardly cordoned off from the rest of the game. At a few points, typically upon arriving in a new town, you’ll have an opportunity to stop progressing the main story for a while and run around doing errands for people, but that opportunity closes the moment you decide to resume the central quest. This format prevents the quests from feeling like an organic, integrated aspect of the world and the lives of its people.

And the content just isn’t very interesting. You might have to find cats in different spots around the slums, or do a generic go-here-and-kill-the-monsters quest for a generic NPC. They’re filler, in other words, and not particularly enjoyable or inventive filler.

For every unnecessarily elaborate new environmental puzzle or boss battle or side quest, though, there’s a new character moment, or a conversation between characters that casts the game’s political concerns into sharp relief.

For instance, when you enter the insulated elegance of the Shinra building toward the end of the game, Tifa expresses her awareness that many Shinra employees have no understanding whatsoever of the oppression and suffering that their work fuels. They’re just ordinary people, trying to provide a decent life for their own families. Barret replies that that’s no excuse for their complicity. It’s a nicely complicated moment, one that acknowledges that Final Fantasy 7 has always been political.

Remake doesn’t deny that or try to simplify the game’s politics. On the contrary, it makes the fight for the fate of the planet feel personal and urgent, and it allows characters like Tifa to have misgivings about what the right way is to wage that battle, even as she knows the battle must be fought.

Better, or just different?

Remake is wildly uneven, poorly paced, and not entirely successful as a game in its own right. It takes a game that still feels staggeringly ambitious and often turns it into something more traditional, even if every aspect of the experience is so much more technically advanced.

But Remake is also the very best thing a game can be: fascinating. It forces us to confront our subjective tastes, and asks us to consider what we value in the games we play. Your feelings about Remake will be determined by what you, personally, valued in the original release.

It’s a mirror held in front of each member of the audience. What are your favorite parts of Final Fantasy VII, and did Square Enix enhance those aspects of the game, make them worse, or remove them altogether? Every fan of the original is likely going to have a slightly different answer to both questions.

Gaming has grown, and so have we, but what have we lost in the transition? This isn’t a replacement for the original game, it’s another take on the same ideas, blown up to fill multiple releases in a way that feels artistically justified in some ways and mercenary in its approach to becoming a commercial juggernaut in others.

We know where we’ve been, and this beginning of an updated version of that experience gives us some idea of where the modern Square Enix thinks we’re headed. The biggest question left is whether fans will agree with its assessment.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be released April 10 on PlayStation 4. The game was reviewed using a final download code provided by Square Enix. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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PS4

Final Fantasy 7 Pre-Order Guide (Launch Week): Bonuses, Special Editions, And More

The long-awaited Final Fantasy 7 Remake will officially be out on PS4 later this week. The first part of Square Enix’s sprawling, episodic remake of the seminal PlayStation RPG releases April 10, meaning we’re just days away from seeing Cloud, Tifa and the rest of the crew in HD. Some fans have already gotten their hands on the game after Square opted to ship copies of the game to Europe and Australia ahead of schedule, and the reviews are already in.

In his glowing 10/10 Final Fantasy 7 Remake review, GameSpot’s Tamoor Hussain praised its updated combat, characters, and stunning rendition of Midgar. “Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement,” he writes. “The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers–the wait was worth it.” If you’d like to play a chunk of the game for yourself ahead of release, you can check out the demo.

The remake brings some huge updates for FF7 fans, who have waited anxiously for the game during its long development period. Square Enix previously confirmed the remake of FF7 will be released in multiple installments and that each installment will be quite substantial; during the E3 2019 press conference, the team also confirmed it will contain two Blu-ray discs’ worth of content.

Just weeks before the game’s release, Square Enix announced some physical copies of Final Fantasy 7 Remake could be delayed by “unforeseeable changes in the distribution and retail landscape” due to coronavirus, although the game’s release date is not budging.

To counteract potential delays, Square began shipping copies of the game early in some regions. For players in the Americas, copies of the game started shipping last week. “We feel optimistic that most of you will receive the game for launch day,” the statement reads. “However, due to the challenging situation we cannot provide delivery dates for each country and each retailer.”

Pre-orders for FF7 Remake are still available at a few stores, although many physical copies are sold out as we enter launch week. If you plan to pre-order a physical copy, be sure to note the estimated delivery date and be aware that there may be delays. You can check out where to pre-order FF7 Remake below, including links for the two premium editions announced during E3: a Deluxe edition and a 1st Class collector’s edition.

Please note that Best Buy is doing curbside pickup these days, so if you find the game in stock at your local store, you may not need to even go inside.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake pre-order bonuses

If you pre-order FF7 Remake at any major retailer, you’ll get the Chocobo Chick Summon Materia DLC. There are also several different bonuses you can get depending on which store you pre-order from. Most retailers are currently sold out, however, which means physical bonuses could be hard to come by during launch week.

  • PlayStation Store: Exclusive dynamic PS4 theme
  • Square Enix Store: Double Members Rewards points and chance to win a Sephiroth or Cloud watch
  • Walmart: Three bonus double-sided art cards
  • GameStop: Serialized Shinra key card and collectible tin box (shown above)
  • Amazon: Sephiroth dynamic PS4 theme

Pre-order Final Fantasy 7 Remake standard edition

Right now, you can still pre-order the standard edition for PS4 at Best Buy and Target. Most other retailers have sold out, however. It comes with the base game and any pre-order bonuses available at that retailer. You can also pre-order the digital standard edition on the PlayStation Store.

  • Get it at Best Buy — $60
  • Get it at Target — $60
  • Get it at Walmart — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at Amazon — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at GameStop — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at Square Enix Store — SOLD OUT

Pre-order Final Fantasy 7 Remake Deluxe edition

The Deluxe edition costs $80 and includes:

  • Base game and any pre-order bonuses
  • Artbook
  • Mini-Soundtrack
  • Steelbook
  • Cactuar Summon Materia DLC
  • Carbuncle Summon Materia DLC

The Deluxe Edition is currently sold out everywhere except for Best Buy. If you want a physical copy, we suggest grabbing it fast. Meanwhile, you can always pre-order the Digital Deluxe Edition, which costs the same price and includes digital versions of the same bonuses (minus the steelbook) as well as an exclusive PS4 theme.

  • Get it at Best Buy — $80
  • Get it at Amazon — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at Walmart — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at GameStop — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at Square Enix Store — SOLD OUT
  • Get it at Target — SOLD OUT

Pre-order Final Fantasy 7 Remake 1st Class edition

The 1st class edition is exclusive to the Square Enix Store and will cost you $330. This edition includes:

  • Base game and any pre-order bonuses
  • Play Arts Kai Cloud Strife & Hardy Daytona box set
  • Artbook
  • Mini-Soundtrack
  • Steelbook
  • Cactuar Summon Materia DLC
  • Carbuncle Summon Materia DLC

This highly coveted edition is sold out and defaults to a waiting list for now. You can still check its listing below.

  • See 1st Class Edition at Square Enix Store — $330

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Categories
Mobile

Big Nintendo Switch Eshop Sale Has A Ton Of Discounts–Check Out The Best Deals

While the Switch Eshop always has games on sale, it’s rare to see a huge collection of notable Switch games discounted at one time. Fortunately for Switch players, that time has come: the Spring 2020 Eshop sale has arrived, with tons of Switch games currently on sale. Quite a few publishers are getting in on the action, including Devolver Digital and Blizzard, and there are some real gems worth snagging while they’re on sale.

The Devolver publisher sale includes discounts on some fantastic games like Ape Out ($7.49), a top-down beat ’em up where you control a gorilla trying to escape a maze, and Hotline Miami Collection ($12.49), a top-down shooter where your character is instructed by mysterious answering machine messages to hunt down and kill the local Russian mafia. You’ll also find great deals on the beautiful platformer Gris, which is on sale for $8.49, and a shoot ’em up featuring a talking banana, My Friend Pedro, on sale for $14.

Diablo III: Eternal Collection is down to $30 (was $60) as part of the Spring Sale. The hack-and-slash RPG allows for both local and online multiplayer, and it’s a perfect game to jump into while we’re all social distancing. For a similar experience, Torchlight II is on sale for just $14, down from $20.

The WB Games sale brings deals on Mortal Kombat 11, which is discounted to $24, along with several of its Lego games, like Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, Lego The Incredibles, and Lego Harry Potter Collection. The Lego games are great for local co-op and easy to get into, so they’re good options if you’re looking for something family-friendly to play with others while you’re stuck inside.

Will: A Wonderful World is another hidden gem in this sale, selling for $9 instead of its usual $15. This visual novel-inspired puzzle game revolves around a girl named Myth, who wakes up in an empty room with a talking dog named Will and learns the two of them are gods who control human fates. As Myth, you’ll read letters from humans detailing events that have gone wrong in their lives, and you must rearrange sections of their letters to create a different ending, knowing that even small changes to one human’s life may affect another’s fate. Will: A Wonderful World is a fantastic pick for fans of narrative games, especially at this price.

There are so many other great games on sale right now, depending on what you’re in the mood for. From Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to Bastion and Transistor, there are plenty of deals worth taking advantage of right now if you’re looking for something new to play. You can check out more of our picks from the sale below, and see the entire offering of deals in the Nintendo Eshop.

Best Nintendo Switch Eshop deals

  • Abzu — $14 ($20)
  • Ape Out — $7.49 ($15)
  • Bastion — $3 ($15)
  • Blazblue Cross Tag Battle — $4.80 ($20)
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night — $28 ($40)
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons — $10.49 ($15)
  • Cat Quest — $3.89 ($13)
  • Coffee Talk — $11.69 ($13)
  • Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled — $24 ($40)
  • Diablo III: Eternal Collection — $30 ($60)
  • Downwell — $1.49 ($3)
  • Drawful 2 — $0.09 ($10)
  • Earthlock — $5.98 ($30)
  • The Escapists – Complete Edition — $3 ($15)
  • The Escapists 2 — $6.79 ($20)
  • Gato Roboto — $4 ($8)
  • Golf Story — $7.49 ($15)
  • Gris — $8.49 ($17)
  • Hotline Miami Collection — $12.49 ($25)
  • Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition — $10 ($20)
  • Katana Zero — $10.04 ($15)
  • Kill la Kill – If — $14 ($20)
  • Lego Harry Potter Collection — $20 ($50)
  • Lego The Incredibles — $24 ($60)
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 — $12 ($30)
  • The Messenger — $10 ($20)
  • Metro 2033 Redux — $17.49 ($25)
  • The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories — $12 ($30)
  • Mortal Kombat 11 — $24 ($60)
  • My Friend Pedro — $14 ($20)
  • Rogue Legacy — $5.09 ($15)
  • Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove — $28 ($40)
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy — $20 ($40)
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP — $5 ($10)
  • Terraria — $21 ($30)
  • Torchlight II — $14 ($20)
  • To the Moon — $8.39 ($12)
  • Transistor — $4 ($40)
  • Trine: Ultimate Collection — $20 ($50)
  • Will: A Wonderful World — $9 ($15)
  • Windjammers — $6 ($15)

Best Deals This Week

  • Free Games To Claim This Week: Rayman Legends, World War Z, And More
  • Amazon Just Launched A Big Sale On PS4, Switch, And Xbox One Games
  • PS Plus Drops To $40 In Limited-Time PS4 Deal
  • Where To Buy A Nintendo Switch Right Now
  • Fantastic Sale On Steam Games Includes Pre-Order Discounts On Resident Evil 3, Trials Of Mana

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Categories
eSports

Allan Phang boards EVOS Esports in marketing role

Allan Phang has joined Southeast Asian organisation EVOS Esports as its Regional Head of Marketing & PR.

This move quickly follows Phang’s departure as the head of  AirAsia Esports, the esports initiative by Malaysian airline AirAsia.

RELATED: Allan Phang takes off from AirAsia Esports

In his new role, Phang will be responsible for handling EVOS Esports’ strategic marketing and public relations, partnerships and sponsorships, and forging business relationships both regionally and internationally.

He spoke on the new venture in a release: “EVOS Esports is a great organisation and I’m truly humbled and excited to be joining them. I believe in Ivan’s vision to build Southeast Asia’s largest media and entertainment empire in esports and beyond.”

RELATED: André Fläckel to head up esports at Infront

Over the past year, EVOS Esports has closed several funding rounds as it moves forward with its objective of becoming one of the leading entity in Southeast Asian esports. Last year, it raised $4.4 million (£3.6 million) in Series A funding – following a $3 million (£2.4 million) raise earlier in the year. More recently, it closed an additional $1.4 million (£1.1 million) investment.

Ivan Yeo, CEO and Co-founder of EVOS Esports, commented on the hire: “Allan brings along a wealth of experience which will add value to our organisation. EVOS Esports is geared to level up in the esports space and his passion for esports is definitely aligned with our culture. We look forward to having him onboard.”

Esports Insider says: Phang has plenty of esports experience and EVOS Esports is evidently looking to take things up a notch or two so this seems like a good fit. There appears to be a big opportunity for an organisation to step things up in Southeast Asia so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

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Categories
Mobile

Quibi risks mobile video platform launch amid quarantine and economic turbulence

Quibi’s founders like to say their mobile video streaming platform is not a typical startup. So perhaps it’s only fitting that the company is launching in the midst of an unprecedented global event that has introduced even more variables it can’t control.

As the April 6 launch date arrives, even the team building the service has no idea whether their timing is auspicious or catastrophic. Amid expanding coronavirus lockdowns, video streaming has been booming. But Quibi is introducing a product designed to be consumed while people are on the go at a moment when most people are going nowhere.

These and a host of other factors have created an unpredictable atmosphere ahead of the release. After weeks of last-minute scrambling to finish the product, the company has to trust that the hunger for more entertainment will allow it to overcome the current social and economic turmoil.

“We’re really in uncharted territory as an industry with Quibi,” said Dan Rayburn, a streaming media analyst at research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “It’s a new type of service trying to fill a different type of segment of the market.”

Quibi arrives amid a frenzy of streaming platform launches. For years, pioneers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube dominated this sector. But last fall saw the launch of Apple Plus and Disney Plus. And NBC Universal’s Peacock and HBO MAX are coming soon.

That would be an extraordinary market dynamic on its own. But starting last month, the COVID-19 pandemic caused governments around the world to issue stay-at-home orders, bringing the global economy to a grinding halt. At the same time, video streaming rose 20% in late March, potentially accelerating a shift to on-demand viewing.

Certainly, Quibi is hoping to ride that wave by targeting a younger, mobile-first generation. Its name is an amalgam of “quick bites,” and the platform is built to deliver videos of under 10 minutes to smartphones. The app will launch with nearly 50 shows and aims to have 8,500 episodes across 175 shows within a year. Quibi costs $4.99 per month with ads and has an ad-free premium layer for $7.99 per month.

All the content on Quibi is exclusive, and the company touts plenty of top-tier talent and high production values. Content includes titles like Most Dangerous Game, starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz; Survive, starring Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner; and Flipped, starring Will Forte. The categories of content include what Quibi calls Movies in Chapters, Unscripted and Docs, and Daily Essentials. The latter includes daily news shows by the BBC and NBC that were made specifically for Quibi.

While all major streaming services have some kind of mobile application, Quibi will be the only one designed specifically for smartphones. The company is not even developing versions of the apps optimized for tablets.

“As a first mover in this area, it is a great opportunity for Quibi, but the challenge is of course that this is untested territory,” said Tony Gunnarsson, a video streaming research analyst at Ovum. “Focusing on younger demographics makes sense. But will they be prepared to pay for the service? I mean, $4.99 per month (and you still get adverts) isn’t particularly expensive, but I think it’ll be borderline for many younger people.”

Tech and creativity

The platform is the brainchild of Meg Whitman, former CEO of HP and eBay, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney executive who founded Dreamworks Studio. Quibi says its founders’ backgrounds are reflected in the way it melds the technological and creative aspects throughout every step of the content creation process.

“What we’re building here is the result of a totally unique collaboration between creators and technologists,” said Rob Post, Quibi’s chief technology officer. “We’ve been having these integrated technology and creative conversations every day. This is what’s driving the innovations in both our stories and our technology.”

The best example of this is Quibi’s “turnstyle” technology. In thinking mobile first, the company wanted to address people’s natural instinct to hold their smartphone vertically when moving and then switch to horizontal views when resting or sitting.

All phones and streaming apps have some kind of auto-rotate features, but Quibi takes this one step further by having content creators shoot all video with cameras optimized for both viewing positions. These two video streams are then stitched together with the audio and sent as a single stream to the smartphone. Ideally, that means no lag when the phone rotates, as well as an image that always fills the whole screen.

However, the tradeoff for customers is that bandwidth use will be higher. Post said Quibi has been discussing this issue with carriers, particularly one of its main partners, T-Mobile.

“This does require a little bit of extra bandwidth in order to deliver the experience onto the phone,” Post said. “But we’ve been tuning it for quite some time, and we’ve been working with the mobile carriers, and we’ve been working with the device manufacturers as well. Our compression technology benefits from the fact that a lot of these shots and scenes are very similar. Ultimately, we think that we’ve struck the right balance for the user on requiring a little bit of extra bandwidth at the same time we’re creating this beautiful rendering and playback experience.”

Content frenzy

What makes Quibi such an audacious bet is the decision to commission all new content that is specifically conceived for its platform. While Disney Plus is all original, much of that content is first released in theaters or cable stations and is supplemented by the company’s merchandising, theme parks, and cruises. Apple Plus is all original content, but the company is building its catalog slowly and Apple can subsidize it with huge profits from its hardware business.

Quibi’s success is wholly dependent on a new slate of titles presented in a unique format.

“There’s no denying that Quibi is an odd sort of startup,” Post said. “On the one hand, like any new venture, our team has come together in a little more than a year and then built the entire business and product from scratch. On the other hand, our ambitions to create an entirely new medium means that we’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in content production. Trust me, it’s as obvious to me as it is to you that this makes us a unique startup.”

The app is designed to make it easy for people to navigate this host of new titles. There are just four tabs: For You, Browse, Following, and Downloads. The first is a news feed powered by Quibi’s algorithms to match a viewer’s interests. It’s designed like a series of cards that viewers can flip through. The Browse section has a search bar, as well as categories like New Releases. Viewers can select shows they want to follow to get notifications about new episodes. And they can download as many as they want to watch offline.

But there will be some restrictions when it comes to viewing that content. For instance, accounts can’t be shared between family members.

Seeding the app with sufficient content has meant not only ramping up production but also attending to countless details that might typically be handled separately by studios. Quibi’s team has to design all the art metadata for its 50 launch shows. This involved creating 5,000 pieces of artwork, including the title treatments, posters, and descriptions.

On a positive note, the company said it has sold out all of its advertising inventory for the entire first year. That includes major sponsors such as Progressive, Discover, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, AB InBev, Taco Bell, Pepsi, T-Mobile, Google, and Walmart. However, Rayburn notes that it’s not entirely clear what this means since Quibi can run as many or as few ads during a show as it wants.

The massive content investment has placed additional pressure on the technology side. The company has developed a set of best practices for content partners to help them shoot their video in formats that won’t become obsolete as the shapes and sizes of smartphone screens evolve. Given the high quality of the video production, the platform’s performance also needs to be flawless.

“One side effect of that content investment is that there’s no room to deliver a so-called minimal viable product,” Post said. “The product has to deliver a mature offering from the get-go.”

COVID-19 curveball 

In the months leading up to the launch, Quibi has been spending millions on an advertising blitz across television, newspapers, and digital. Customer acquisition is typically one of the major expenses for any video streaming service so delaying the launch now, after hyping the start date for months, would be extremely costly.

But sticking to the date has also presented challenges. Like everything else, this huge undertaking has had to adapt over the past month to the coronavirus pandemic, which has meant last-minute work on the technical side.

“We all started working from home about three weeks ago,” said Tom Conrad, Quibi’s chief product officer. “As with the rest of the world, this is not something that we anticipated. But it’s been really kind of incredible the way the team has come together to continue to push forward to get this product out into the world.”

On the content side, the company has been scrambling to adapt to a pandemic that has shut down most types of film and TV production. Conrad said there are enough shows that are either completely finished or in final postproduction to allow Quibi to maintain its planned release cadence through the end of the year.

But part of the content strategy has been built around the Daily Essentials category, with new episodes every day that are intended to keep people coming back to the app. Those were supposed to be produced in studios in New York and Los Angeles. Now, like many other late-night and talk shows, they are being produced from people’s homes.

“We feel confident about our ability to deliver on our ambition of new content daily,” Conrad said.

The lockdown poses another dilemma in terms of the fundamental use case for Quibi. Executives have talked about the app being a great way to consume content when a viewer is on the go or during various in-between moments throughout their day. With millions quarantined and stuck at home with their big-screen TVs and cable and several other streaming services, will there still be that same niche for Quibi to fill?

“That’s a great question,” Post said. “I find that with my workday, I’m trying to remind myself to take a small break, stand up, walk around, go outside. I think our use case [comes down to] these in-between moments, whether you’re on the go or not. I think now more than ever, the use case still persists.”

The decision to move ahead with the launch is also driven, in part, by the desire to finally start gathering real data on usage. “One of the things that we’ve been anticipating for some time now is starting to collect some data on how users are really interacting with our app,” Post said. “We’ll definitely find out the day we launch what users like and don’t like.”

Rayburn said that Quibi faced a large number of hurdles even before COVID-19. In contrast to a service like Apple or Disney, Quibi doesn’t have an ecosystem of products and services to draw in new viewers. And limiting itself to one type of screen with untested content while having very little real knowledge about consumer preferences is a big risk. He agrees that launching is a necessary step because the company urgently needs that data to start learning and adapting things like episode lengths.

“They’re actually trying to do something really large, which is change the way consumers in the U.S. consume video on mobile,” Rayburn said. “I think that’s quite a big undertaking, and trying to do it all at once through all these different avenues at the same time with restrictions is a little too much, frankly.”

Because Quibi is offering a free 90-day trial period, it will still be several months before it’s clear whether people who sign up are sticking with the service. But with the curtain finally lifting, Post said he’s confident Quibi is ready for its big premiere.

“It’s always been our ambition to bring a little bit of entertainment, inspiration, and information into the world,” Post said. “And that charge feels more urgent today than ever before.”

The company has raised $1.75 billion in venture capital ahead of the launch.

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