This week in games: Call of Duty's battle royale is free-to-try, Steam moved 15 exabytes of data in 2018

Gaming news for January 14 to 18

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This week, the spring release season begins in earnest. “But Hayden, didn’t we just finish up the holiday release season?” Yeah, tell me about it. But the Resident Evil 2 remake next Friday kicks off about a month and a half of non-stop games, from Total War: Three Kingdoms to Far Cry: New Dawn to The Division 2 and Anthem and more. So many more—and you’ll find a few pertinent trailers below, as the marketing machines proceed apace as well.

Also up this week: EA cancels yet another Star Wars game, Valve recaps its 2018 stats, Forza kills the Floss, IO opens a second studio, Epic updates its refund policy, and Mortal Kombat 11 gets the full reveal treatment.

This is gaming news for January 14 to 18.

Breakout hit

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the first Call of Duty to surprise me in recent years, mostly because its “Blackout” battle royale mode is really damn good. “PUBG without the jank,” I’ve said multiple times now, and I stand by it.

But in the immortal words of LeVar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. Blackout is free-to-try from now until January 24—and only Blackout, I should specify. Just pop open Battle.net, find Black Ops 4, and click the “Try For Free” button.

Going rogue

The Division had one standout idea: The Dark Zone, where players were encouraged to team up to score high-level loot while most of the server tried to gun them down. It was a pretty thrilling multiplayer setup, and no surprise to hear it’s returning for The Division 2—this time, in triplicate.

There will be three Dark Zones in Washington D.C., each with a unique look. “Rogue Agents” are a bit more granular this time as well. You can be classified as both violent or non-violent, depending on whether you shoot another player in the head or just steal their fancy vest and run off with it. And hey, there are turrets at the entrance now to cut down on griefing. That’s pretty cool.

Cold wars

The EA and Star Wars saga continued this week, as Kotaku reported that EA Vancouver’s in-development Star Wars game was canceled. Keep in mind, EA Vancouver started this project in 2017 when EA shut down Visceral, a closure that itself resulted in a canceled Star Wars game. Apparently EA Vancouver is starting over on a new, smaller Star Wars game due to release in 2020, but...we’ll see.

As for the current tally, EA’s had the Star Wars license for almost six years now and released two mediocre Battlefront games. That’s it. I can’t imagine Disney renews this partnership, though who knows? Respawn’s got a Star Wars game releasing this fall. Maybe it’ll wow us—provided it’s not canceled between now and then.

Band of strangers

On a more positive EA note, BioWare confirmed this week (via Polygon) that Anthem will have matchmaking for any and all activities in the game. I’m excited—not so much about Anthem per se, but excitement that I can tackle Anthem’s raids and other end-game content without needing a steady group of friends or an active clan to facilitate. I love Destiny 2’s raids for instance, but once my friends fell off playing it was much harder to get a group together to attempt them, and the “Guided Games” system felt like a busted half-measure at best.

Now here’s hoping Anthem’s fun enough that you’ll want to stick around. There’s eight minutes of “Freeplay Expeditions” below, courtesy of IGN, if you haven’t gotten sick of watching Anthem videos yet.

Lightning Strikes

Battlefield V kicked off its second season of content this week, “Lightning Strikes,” adding the much-loved Rush mode back into the game, plus new weapons, cosmetics, and the like. There’s also a...co-op mode on the way? I’m definitely curious about that, though this trailer doesn’t say much except “It’s coming sometime in February.”

Raiden’s rage

Did somebody mention lightning? Mortal Kombat 11 got the full reveal treatment this week, courtesy of an event in Los Angeles. There’s a lot to watch, but I’ve gone ahead and embedded the best trailer below, which is to say “The one where angry Raiden decapitates a demi-god.” You might also get a kick out of this Fatalities-centric trailer though, or the one focused on Geras, a new character who a) manipulates time and b) punches people’s faces off.

It’s my money!

A short note here, but the Epic Games Store updated its refund policy this week—and wouldn’t you know it, it looks a lot like Steam’s. You can now refund a game on the Epic Games Store for any reason, so long as you put in the request within 14 days of purchase and have played less than two hours.

Wait, how much?

Speaking of Steam, Valve put out a lengthy “2018 Year in Review” post this week that reads a bit like “Hey, don’t forget we still dominate the PC gaming market.” Overtones aside, there’s a lot of interesting numbers in there—90 million monthly active users, 47 million daily active users, 1.7 billion trading cards earned (in 2018 alone), and 218 million screenshots posted (again, just in 2018).

But the number that made me blink the most? In 2018, Steam delivered more than 15 exabytes of data, or a billion gigabytes. As Valve helpfully points out, “For reference, the entire traffic of the internet in 2003 (the year we launched Steam) is estimated at 9.3 exabytes.” Pretty incredible.

Hack and slash

It’s been nearly four years since I first played Katana Zero, and at some point last year I actually wondered what happened to it. It just...disappeared for a while, perhaps because it was changing hands behind-the-scenes. Back in 2015 it was being published by Adult Swim. Now it’s apparently jumped ship to Devolver, though it’s kept the same “ Mark of the Ninja x Hotline Miami” vibe. It’s stylish as hell, is what I’m saying—and due out in March, at long last.

Spymaster

Total War: Three Kingdoms is out in early March, and I hope it’s solid. After years spent pining for another historical Total War game, last year’s Thrones of Britannia met with tepid response. The series could use a winner that’s not subtitled Warhammer. You can get a look at some espionage in the new developer diary below—provided you have the patience to watch an eight-minute, slow-moving video about diplomacy and tech trees. (A very beautiful tech tree, I might add.)

IO 2

Lest you think IO’s recent independence means it’s condemned to forever churn out Game-of-the-Year nominated Hitman games, the developer announced this week the existence of a new IOI Malmo, saying “This will expand our muscles for creating brand-new and exciting endeavors, new universes, new franchises.” So no, don’t get your hopes up for a Kane & Lynch sequel, weirdos.

I’m looking forward to whatever comes of this second studio, especially if it uses that smooth Hitman engine in some creative ways. Best of luck to the new team.

Can’t dance if you wanna

The dance wars have begun. Following the news that Fortnite was being sued by multiple artists for the inclusion of various dances, including the Floss and the Carlton, Forza Horizon 4 has now yanked its own version of both emotes from the game. No longer can you Floss on top of the UK’s beautiful landmarks. Let’s take a moment to mourn the loss, shall we?

RTX ready?

Lastly, a pretty fun video courtesy of YouTube channel UFD Tech. Armed with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, UFD Tech set out to answer the question “Can you even tell the difference?” And by that they mean, can you tell whether ray-tracing is active or not? Short answer: Sort-of! If you really pay attention! Maybe we should throw my good friend and graphics snob Gordon Ung into one of these challenges, eh?

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