For as much as people love to joke about friendless nerds who spend all their time playing games in the basement, video games have always been a social activity. If you're of a certain age, you may remember gathering with your friends to take turns playing Super Mario Bros. 3, or challenging the best Street Fighter 2 player at the local arcade. Maybe you have a standing Counter-Strike night, or you play Jackbox with your friends.
Whatever form it takes for you, this week on USgamer is all about the joy of playing together with friends, loved ones, or just random people on the Internet (which can sometimes be a positive experience, believe it or not). We're putting a particular emphasis on cooperative experiences, but we'll include a couple competitive experiences as well. Our overarching goal is to delve into the shared social experience of gaming, and what makes it so special.
This idea was conceived in the shadow of the ongoing pandemic, which has locked people across the world in their own homes, away from friends and family. Games have been a way for many people to cope, whether through Animal Crossing date nights, or tabletop gaming over Zoom. For me, Wednesday has become Call of Duty night, an opportunity to connect with friends who nominally live within driving distance, but are now inaccessible. Once treated as a trivial time-waster, slipping on a headset and grabbing a controller is perhaps the most meaningful form of interaction we have right now.
Here at USG, we all have our own perspective on what "playing together" means. For some of us, it's about competing in fighting games; for others, it's about Jackbox. We'll talk about the beauty of shared suffering in MMOs, and we'll remember the communal experience of discovering old save files on rental games. Regardless of what form they ultimately take, our stories will be all about the joy of getting together with other human beings—online or offline—and playing some video games.
We look forward to sharing all the ways that we can still play together in this extraordinary time. For now, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay indoors. We'll get through this together.
Major Game Releases: April 20 to April 24
Here are the major releases for the week of April 20 to April 24. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- MotoGP 20 [April 23 for PC, PS4, XB1, Switch, Stadia]: If you're all about the high-speed, high-stakes world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, there's one one option: MotoGP. This year's entry is coming to nearly every platform under the sun, with a hyper-realistic racing simulation and a Managerial Career mode to boot. Like other sports, MotoGP is down and out, but you can still get that action whenever you want.
- Predator: Hunting Grounds [April 24 for PC, PS4]: The team behind Friday the 13th: The Game are back with another 4v1 asymmetric multiplayer titles. This time, instead of camp counselors running from Jason Voorhees, a team of Marines will step up to get killed by the Predator. But let's be honest, who wants to play a Marine and not the Predator?
- Trials of Mana [April 24 for PC, PS4, Switch]: For 24 years, we waited for a proper English localization of Seiken Densetsu 3. Then Square gave us the game last year as part of the Collection of Mana on Switch, only to return a year later with a full 3D remake! We've gone from nothing, to what looks to be a proper entry in a series that has been languishing at Square Enix for years. Truly we are blessed by the Mana Tree.
- XCOM: Chimera Squad [April 24 for PC]: Firaxis Games announced a brand-new XCOM spinoff to the surprise of nearly everyone. Chimera Squad focuses on an organization of human and alien peacekeepers trying to keep the future City 31 running. It's the XCOM you know and love, only now with a set squad of heroes and new features like breaching and interleaving turns.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week in Gaming
What week of the quarantine is this? You're probably having as much trouble keeping track of the days as we are. Well, at the very least we can tell you the biggest stories that you might've missed last week.
- Final Fantasy 7 was always a political game, but Remake turns up the intensity. FF7 begins with a terrorist attack against a giant, government-controlling mega-corporation that's draining the world dry. It's hard to not take a certain worldview from that. Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey argues that the Remake plays up those political leanings, and does more to explore the world of Midgar and highlight the different facets of its society. We also did some speculation about where Final Fantasy 7 Remake may go in its second entry and looked at the unfortunate, occasional texture problem that pops up in the game. And if you're deep into the Final Fantasy franchise, you might also want to take a look at this interview about Final Fantasy 11, which is approaching its 20th anniversary.
- There's a lot of tactics strategy right around the corner. We already knew that Gears Tactics was coming, a new strategy title combining the foundation established in XCOM with the harsh, bloody combat of Gears. The spinoff is coming to PC only on April 28. It seems that Firaxis wanted to throw down the gauntlet to competition though, announcing XCOM: Chimera Squad for release a few days earlier on April 24. According to Firaxis, Chimera Squad is "neither a sequel or expansion to XCOM 2," meaning if you want a proper sequel, you'll be waiting.
- Arcades might not survive the pandemic. A number of businesses are at risk across the entire United States. Among them is one industry that's been trying to slowly grow over the past few years: arcades. Reporter Mat Olson talked to various arcade owners to see how they're surviving statewide shut downs, and if they'll be able to return at all. "If we can't make it through this with all the support we have, I can't see how a lot of other businesses will," said one arcade owner.
- Capcom may remake Resident Evil 4 next. VideoGamesChronicle is reporting that Capcom is looking to follow-up its Resident Evil 3 remake with a similar take on Resident Evil 4. While some players were hoping that Resident Evil: Code Veronica might be the next REmake, Capcom is going where the money is and taking a shot at one of the series' most beloved entries. Resident Evil 4 has already been released on every platform under the sun, but Kat believes that it's still a dated game that needs another look in 2020-2021.
- The TurboGrafx-16, a console many never touched, is its own excellent retro mini-console. Long ago, NEC and Hudson Soft graced the world with the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16, a console that tried to go toe-to-toe with the Super NES and Sega Genesis. Following the successful mini-console launch of the Super NES Classic and the okay launch of the Sega Genesis Mini, TurboGrafx-16 is getting into the mini-console game. Our review found an absolutely lovely experience, with a treasure trove of classic games you might not have played before. If mini-consoles are supposed to be about celebrating history, then the TurboGrafx-16 Mini may be the most "essential" one yet.
Axe of the Blood God for April 20, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
It's a great big multiplayer RPG episode as USG's Play Together Week gets underway! Kat and Nadia are joined by Mike Williams to reminisce about Final Fantasy 11, discuss the World of WarCraft: Shadowlands Alpha, and revisit Fallout 76's new Wastelanders update. Is it finally worth returning to Fallout 76? The Blood God crew weighs in! Plus: We're introducing a brand new segment this week! Subscribe and listen here!