Month: July 2024

From a rapper’s grandiose penthouse delight to the sleaziest dive bars spinning vinyl, PAPER is giving you a first-hand look into the Big Apple’s most hype-worthy music experiences in Seriously, What Are You Doing? — straight from the music editor’s mouth. Are you or someone you love feeling restless in the city that never sleeps? Here’s what you should be doing (seriously!).

Every year, only once a year, I head to Café Carlyle to see Hamilton Leithauser‘s (of The Walkmen) winter residency. I love the teeny little jazz club, with its hand-painted walls and dangerously good martinis they’ve been serving since 1955. It’s special, a treat, a delicious splurge that hits me the same way a super sweet decadent slice of cake does. It’s perfect every once in a while, but I’d be a bit mad if I tried to eat it everyday.

Enter Close Up a fresh, relaxed, red-hued jazz club located on 154 Orchard Street in NYC. It’s got all the sweet music, yummy drinks and a vibe that gives you an excuse to put on your best fits, all without any of the pomp. Owned by 20-somethings, aimed at 20-somethings and sat right in the bustle of the Lower East Side, the new spot is as approachable as they come.

On the night I stopped by I was pleasantly surprised by the space high school friends Daniel Gaynor and Solomon Gottfried had created. I felt chic and in-the-know without feeling out of place, everyone was friendly, the menu was sensational (I’m still daydreaming about the empanadas) and that’s even before we get to the music. Later, speaking to Daniel I find out how much of a labor of love the club was. How he and his friends pulled together resources (like vintage chairs from his parents) and know-how (like the DIY sound engineering that makes the quality of the room sonics hit you where it needs to) to make their dream of a less stuffy, younger option for enjoying jazz possible.

Domo Branch Trio took the stage on the Saturday. I donned my best silver boots and sipped on sparkling wine (still thinking about that, too) at Close Up. The music was mesmerizing and I even remarked later on my lack of desire to pick up my phone — nary a desire to scroll in sight. Domo, a young New York drummer who (literally) fits the Close Up bill, brought a delightful energy to the room, and by the time the music stopped I was already plotting my return to the club.

It was the kind of evening that reminds you why you came to New York City in the first place. A dimly lit room full of well-dressed guests happy just to hear a good set with a drink in hand and (again) no cell phone in sight. It made me feel good about where the city and the music that makes it run are heading.

If you’re ever up for a little bit of optimism and a lot of good music, hit me up and we’ll go to Close Up. See you there.

Photography: Annika White, RJ Meyer, Lauren Hogan

Anderson .Paak can’t just be one person. The rapper, singer and all-around Renaissance man finds the most joy in dipping into different personas. “I’m really a person that doesn’t like to get too comfortable doing one thing,” he tells PAPER.

The California musician has just released his new album, Why Lawd?, as NxWorries, a music duo he created with producer Knxwledge. Aside from the brand new LP, he’s set to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut album, Venice, and embarking on a US tour in support of his critically acclaimed album, Malibu. Not just that, but he’s making his directorial debut with upcoming film K-POPs, which was inspired by creating YouTube skits with his son during the pandemic. It’s safe to say that he’s pretty busy these days.

NxWorries isn’t the only project that .Paak has become known for. He also is DJ Pee .Wee, his DJ alter ego who has played some of the biggest festivals in the world and will hit stages around the world in the coming months. He constantly tours with his band Free Nationals and, most notably, created Grammy Award-winning duo Silk Sonic with Bruno Mars.

There’s nothing .Paak can’t do, it seems. So to get the scoop on it all, PAPER sat down with him after Paris Fashion Week last month where he made his front row debut at the Louis Vuitton show.

How was Paris Fashion Week?

I mean, fashion week can be a pretty nerve-wracking, weird experience, because even if I’m not performing, I still feel nervous. Everyone’s looking, and you want to look your best. Then I think about how I don’t need to be nervous. Like, the people putting on the shows should probably be the most nervous. So I just get to hang out, watch all these incredible designs, beautiful models. It’s really a feast for the eyes, and it was cool to be able to be invited to the Louis V show with my boy Pharrell for the first time and in Paris. I didn’t get to see what they were going to dress me in, but I was confident that it would be cool, and it exceeded expectations. So I had a really good time.

Tell me about Why Lawd? How do you think this album situates you in your career, especially with the 10th anniversary of Venice coming up?

It’s a full circle moment, and I’m really blessed to be able to come back to it and have this outlet to be able to to make music with one of my best friends, Knxwledge, who I think is one of the greatest producers of our time. I think it was a needed type of therapy for me to be able to circle back and work on this album. I always had plans on finishing it, and I’m just really appreciative of Knxwledge and my team for just allowing me to venture off and try different things, like going out on tour with Bruno and working on our album as Silk Sonic, and doing tours with the Free Nationals and working on their project. I just did a lot of side quests and a lot of different things, and no one was making a big fuss out of it on my end. I was able to come back and finish what we started with this album. It feels really good to have that balance in my career and to see the response. It’s been so much love, and I’m just really grateful and appreciative.

The side quests seem like the most fun, in a way.

Yeah, for sure, man. It’s a great outlet, you know? I’m really a person that doesn’t like to get too comfortable doing one thing. I like to challenge myself, and I have a lot of fun with my musical personalities and my alter egos. And it’s cool to be able to put them in certain places, whether it’s Nxworries, or DJ Pee .Wee, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic, Free Nationals. All these things make up one artist, you know? All these different facets.

And you’re making your directorial debut with your film K-POPs!, right?

Yeah, K-POPs! is my labor of love. I’ve been working on this project for about three years now, and it started in quarantine when I was just hanging out with my family, and my oldest son was telling me he wanted to be a YouTuber. I was like, “Cool, we’re going to be YouTubers.” But we started just hanging out, doing sketches and skits with him, and that’s when I started thinking of that idea. I was like, Wow, this kid is really talented. He’s a natural. I wanted to write a script where we’re both in it, something funny that we can kind of showcase all these things that we’ve been doing together, and it took a while to get it on its feet. But thank God for Stampede Studios, the production company that we did it independently with, and Live Nation. I got with a cowriter, Khaila Amazan, and one of my best friends, Dumbfounded, helped me produce it. We sat there and went draft after draft, and eventually we got it done, man. I got to shoot, direct and star in it. We shot in Los Angeles, Korea and al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, and I’m really proud of it. It’s just been so much work. Acting, directing and just film in general is something I’m really loving and want to do a lot more of in the future. I’m enjoying learning the process as well.

It’s a family comedy. It was a great way for me to be able to get some quality time with my son and learn a lot about him and have just a whole lot of fun making memories and telling a story that I think is going to be very unique to my experience and is going to be something that people haven’t really seen before on the screen. People ask me, “Is this based on a true story or anything?” And I like to say that it’s based on a true family, and it’s definitely not what happened verbatim in my life. It’s just like a fun comic book version of things that inspired me somewhat based on it, but nothing that was really based on what actually happened — just like a fun version of it.

More kids nowadays want to be YouTubers than, say, astronauts like they did back in the day.

YouTube is the new cable, and so the people on YouTube are the new cable/movie stars of our time. When I was coming up, I wanted to be like those people I saw on TV, too. So it’s good to have some good representations, some different things out there for people to see. But yeah, it’s pretty much based on BJ, who’s my character, and he’s a washed up musician that plays in a live karaoke band, but he finds out that his kid that he doesn’t know he has could be the next K-pop star. It’s a lot of fun.

You’re touring Malibu in the fall. What made this the right time to take this album on the road?

I decided that I was going to do the Hollywood Bowl show and do Malibu in its entirety, and I just got such an overwhelming response. And once we put that out, people got so excited and were hitting us up from all over the world. I was like, You know what? Let’s just give the fans what they want and take the show on the road. Why not now? I just think it’s going to be a cool experience for us to be able to play some of these songs that we’ve never played before as well, and I really love amphitheaters. I think it was just the perfect combination.

What’s inspiring you generally right now?

Right now, it’s just life and travels in general. That always inspires me. I’m constantly working and on the road, so every conversation, every audio clip, every book, every movie, just looking out the window is me just chasing inspiration everywhere I can. And besides that, I’ve been working in the studio with some very talented artists that inspire me. I’ve been listening to some music. I’ve been really enjoying this artist named Mk.Gee and working with artists that I’ve been developing on my label. That’s pretty much it.

Thanks so much for talking to me.

Thank you too, bro.

Photos courtesy of Louis Vuitton

EA Sports FC 25
All the stars are out for EA Sports FC 25 (Electronic Arts)

Electronic Arts has released the cover for EA Sports FC 25 Ultimate Edition, with a full trailer set to drop later this week.

While England may have failed against Spain in the Euros 2024 final, one of the team’s star players is taking a prime spot on both covers of EA Sports FC 25.

As previously outed by leaks, England and Real Madrid player Jude Bellingham will adorn the standard cover of the next EA football title – the second to not have the FIFA licence after EA ended its 30-year partnership with the football association.

It was also rumoured he and others would be on the Ultimate Edition cover, which EA has just officially revealed. On it, you can see the rumours were right, with Bellingham joined by other football stars past and present – namely David Beckham, Gianluigi Buffon, Aitana Bonmati, and Zinedine Zidane.

They are surrounded by various championship trophies, but the Euros 2024 trophy is weirdly absent, even though EA does have a deal to feature it and the championship (the only one they miss out on, because they don’t have the FIFA licence, is the World Cup).

At the same time, EA has announced that the first trailer for EA Sports FC 25 is set to be revealed on Wednesday, July 17 at 4.57pm BST in the UK, which is… weirdly specific.

Manchester City player Erling Haaland was the cover star of last year’s game, EA Sports FC 24, which despite the name change still managed to prove a sales juggernaut.

According to prior leaks, EA Sports FC 25 will be released on September 27. If you buy the more expensive Ultimate Edition, however, you’ll be able to play the game seven days early, from September 20.

EA Play subscribers will also apparently get early access to the game via a 10-hour trial, which has become the norm for the service.

As for the future of FIFA in video games, the football association is rumoured to have signed a deal with Take-Two, to make a new series of games, but this is still yet to be confirmed.

EA Sports FC 24
EA Sports FC 24 marked a new era (Electronic Arts)

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Halo Infinite main
343 is losing its grip on Halo (Microsoft)

It appears the fallout from Halo Infinite has had a severe impact on developer 343 Industries, as its future with the franchise is brought into question.

While Halo Infinite was the best game in the series to be developed by 343 Industries (who picked up the reins from Bungie after Halo Reach), the lack of support after launch meant it quickly fell from the multiplayer shooter conversation.

Some ex-employees at 343 have blamed Xbox management for the game’s failure, shortly after the team was affected by mass layoffs in 2023. Last year, known Halo insider Bathrobe Spartan suggested 343 was set to be taken off ‘active development’ of the Halo franchise entirely, as it pivots to overseeing work by other third party studios.

That same insider has now shared a new thread on Twitter, about the situation at 343, where he outlines how the studio has been downsized significantly over the past year.

According to Bathroom Spartan, who spoke to 12 ex-employees from 343, there are less than 280 people working at the studio as of May 2024, with roughly ’50 to 60 people let go’ on top of the prior layoffs.

Of those left, only 30% are apparently still working on projects related to game content production, with the rest mainly being ‘business orientated roles and producers’. It’s said the majority of employees have been working on other Xbox studio titles over the past year, with the most Halo Infinite content being handled by contracted studios.

This is said to be reflective of a ‘new production method’ at 343. According to the insider, the studio is now hiring lead positions to manage the concept and pre-production phases on future games, but it will outsource the actual work to other studios – something 343 did with Halo Wars 2 and developer Creative Assembly.

It’s claimed two projects are already underway with two contracted studios, but both are still in the pre-production phase. One is described as a ‘PvP bigger scale orientated project’ in line with Halo Infinite’s legacy, which might be the next mainline Halo game, while the other may be the rumoured remake of the original Halo.

According to the insider’s sources, however, these projects are at least two years away from any official release – so don’t expect to hear anything anytime soon.

This change in approach is described as a cost effective way to ‘help produce content for games at a reliable pace in the future’, in the ‘hope of not reproducing what happened to Halo Infinite’ in regards to production delays.

According to the sources, Halo Infinite did not meet its ‘commercial goals’, which led future content to be cancelled beyond what was already outsourced to other studios – such as the addition of the Forge which came out a year after launch.

While 343 has not officially commented on the situation, it is know that they were badly affected by the general Xbox layoffs from earlier in the year, and they’ve not announced any new project since Halo Infinite’s launch in 2021.

Despite having a strong showcase during Summer Game Fest this year, Microsoft hasn’t had the best time of late – thanks to its confusing changes to Xbox Game Pass – although it has been hinting that it will have a lot to talk about at Gamescom next month.

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite failed to have legs – but who’s to blame? (Microsoft)

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Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess screenshot
Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess – it’s nothing if not different (Capcom)

Capcom’s strange new action strategy hybrid is steeped in Japanese mythology and unlikely gameplay mash-ups but does the mixture work?

Although most big publishers are pretending there’s no way out of the current predicament, of video games costing too much to make and taking too long to develop, there is one very obvious solution: don’t spend so much on them. But nobody even seems to have considered that idea and are convinced that they must make AAA blockbusters or nothing at all.

The logic is that you need massive budgets to reap equally massive profits, with most publishers having long since lost interest in any kind of middle ground. But the bigger the budget the smaller the risks that can be taken, and the less likely anyone is to come up with anything new or unique (cf. Concord). Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess is nothing if not unique.

For whatever reason, Capcom has decided to indulge themselves with this game and we’re very glad they have. The end result is far from perfect but it’s weird and imaginative and not quite like anything else we’ve ever played. As we said at the preview stage, it feels like something from the PlayStation 2 era, not in terms of the gameplay but in that exists purely because the developer had an idea they wanted to try – and not because the because the publisher had a trend it wanted to exploit.

Path Of The Goddess’ plot is both simple and confusing, as there’s almost no dialogue and even the name, Kunitsu-Gami, doesn’t translate easily into English (it means something like ‘gods of the land’ or ‘local deity’). The gist is that evil spirits of defilement have invaded a mountaintop and all the nearby villages have been overrun. Only a shrine maiden named Yoshiro is able to survive the initial assault and so summons an avatar named Soh to fight for her.

Although Soh can cleanse smaller outbreaks of defilement, including rescuing cocooned villagers, Yoshiro is needed to cleanse the torii that the creatures spawn out of. This takes time though and involves her very slowly walking (dancing, technically) from one end of a two-stage map to the other. Your primarily goal is to protect her until she gets there, using villagers to assist you in what is half action game and half real-time strategy.

The game has a day and night cycle, where the monsters only appear at night. This gives you time to cleanse minor defilements (find them all and you get a new unlockable buff), rescue villagers, and assign them roles and positions for the night ahead. At first you can only make them simple fighters or archers, but each boss battle unlocks a new role, from healer to sumo wrestler and spearman.

Since you know exactly where Yoshiro will be when night falls you can prepare by setting up villagers nearby, while also get them to cover other torii, that also spawn monsters, and using the single carpenter under you command to repair traps and barriers.

One obvious tactic is to keep Yoshiro behind a barrier, so at least one route to her is blocked, as the monsters barely have any AI and instead move along predetermined lanes, like League Of Legends and other MOBAs. This means they’ll actually walk past her sometimes, before looping back and attacking from an unexpected direction.

In theory this is all good stuff, with dozens of buffs to unlock, including by completing achievement-like challenges for each stage, and skill trees for each role and several for Soh himself. The combat isn’t complicated, but it’s enjoyable, with some simple combos to initiate more powerful dance attacks. There’s also lots of different yōkai style monsters, from basic cannon fodder that attack in groups to creatures that can possess villagers or act like mobile artillery.

The most immediately obvious problem with the game is that the selection screen for organising and ordering about villagers is the worst UI design we’ve seen in years. The multiple overlays and neon colours make it all but impossible to see who you have selected and the range is very limited, so you often have to move them in stages. The screen is also separate from the one that assigns them roles or gives them health, which makes the whole strategy element an absolute faff.

A more fundamental problem is that because the game’s influenced more by MOBAs than traditional real-time strategies, the maps are very small and usually over quite quickly. Because Yoshiro is always on the move you never have a permanent base and since she’s so fragile it’s too risky to position many villagers away from her. Instead, you end up just dumping them in a circle around her and hoping for the best – which usually works.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess screenshot
Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess – this paper barrier becomes magical at night (Capcom)

Apart from anything the game is very easy, increasing the impression that Capcom’s designers didn’t fully commit to the strategy element. We guessed long before it happened that the ending would just be straight action, but we were still shocked by how it immediately ditches the strategy elements as soon the game enters its final stretch.

It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of variety in the level concepts, including one with toxic pools of water, another in a darkened cave where a monster keeps putting out the lamps, one with no villagers, and a variant where Soh is stuck in spirit form for the whole level (something that happens if they die, but usually only lasts 30 seconds or so).

There’s a third element to the game where you help to repair liberated villages, in what comes across as a vaguely Animal Crossing style cosy game. But this requires absolutely no skill or thought, you just select the buildings to repair and come back later when it’s done. You don’t even get to feel good about helping out the villagers as they’re all wearing masks, all the time, for reasons that the game never properly explains. So there’s no characterisation or emotional attachment, as there might be in something like XCOM.

The best levels are the ones where Yoshiro is static and you actually have to think about where you place the villagers, since you can’t be everywhere at once. But there’s only a handful of these and all the other levels seem too easy and obvious by comparison.

Despite the many flaws we still enjoyed the game, but then we didn’t have to pay £40 for it (the fact that Capcom is sensible enough not to try and charge more is good to see). It is on Game Pass though, so if you have access to it there then we definitely recommend trying it out.

There are lots of good ideas in Path Of The Goddess but none of them seem fully formed, so in the end the best part ends up being the combat, particularly the boss battles. The art design is great too, with weird kaleidoscopic imagery for the defilements and backgrounds that look like what might have happened if H. R. Giger had decided to paint with a pre-schooler’s colour palette.

The soundtrack is also fantastic, and wonderfully varied too, with everything from traditional Japanese music to pounding techno beats. The various jazz tracks are particularly sublime and we ended up playing one of the boss battles a second time just to hear the music again.

Path Of The Goddess is a fascinating look at what happens when a big publisher lets its developers go off and do whatever they want, knowing the budget is low enough that they can’t get themselves into too much trouble. We loudly applaud Capcom for encouraging this and pour scorn on all those that do not – which is pretty much every major Western publisher.

But, sadly, the experiment hasn’t really worked. Path Of The Goddess is weird and wonderful but it’s also very slight and feels sorely underdeveloped. We’ve no idea if there’ll ever be another one, to try and address the failings, but we kind of hope not. Not because we didn’t enjoy it but because being unique and different was the central appeal and we need more games like that, whether they work out or not.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess review summary

In Short: Fascinatingly strange in all the best ways but while the action is solid the strategy aspects are undercooked and the disparate gameplay elements never gel the way they should.

Pros: Plenty of variety in terms of stages, with lots of unique ideas and unlockables. Fun combat and some great boss battles. The visuals and soundtrack are excellent.

Cons: The strategy elements are too simplistic and undermined by the game’s structure. Bafflingly awful selection screen. Repairing villages amounts to nothing.

Score: 6/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (previewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £39.99*
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 19th July 2024
Age Rating: 16

*Game Pass day one

Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess screenshot
Kunitsu-Gami: Path Of The Goddess – the power of dance defeats evil (Capcom)

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Link in Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom
A Link to the Dark World? (Nintendo)

The princess of Hyrule might be the star of The Legend Of Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom, but it seems Link will still be playable in some capacity.

The Legend Of Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom is the first game in the series to give Zelda a lead playable role (if you ignore the CD-i games not made by Nintendo), but she’s not taking the spotlight entirely.

In previous games, Link is usually the main protagonist, while Zelda takes on a passive role as the damsel in distress who occasionally helps out in the final battle.

That’s set to change in Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom, and while it appeared as if Link would be sucked away into another dimension for its entirety, an ESRB rating has confirmed he will have a playable role.

As described by the ESRB, which gives the game a ‘E10+’ rating (everyone 10+), players can ‘use a sword and arrows to defeat enemies’ as Link.

The full description reads: ‘This is an adventure game in which players assume the role of Zelda as she attempts to dispel rifts throughout Hyrule and rescue Link. From a 3/4-overhead perspective, players explore various environments while fighting stylised enemies (e.g., humans, creatures).

‘As Link, players use a sword and arrows to defeat enemies; Zelda can use a magic wand to summon creatures (e.g., wind-up knights, pig soldiers, slime) for battle. Some enemies can be defeated by being set on fire; other creatures dissolve into mist when defeated. Battle sequences are somewhat frenetic, with several enemies attacking/fighting at once.’

While this confirms Link is playable, it’s unclear for how long. The first trailer appeared to show Link as playable in the opening as he fights Ganon, before disappearing down a portal – so it’s possible this prologue is the extent of Link’s dedicated sections.

Alternatively, it’s possible that Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom could jump back and forth between the light and dark world Link has seemingly been transported to, although considering Zelda takes the lead on the box art, it’s safe to assume Link’s role will not be the crux of the experience.

Another option is that Link bookends the game, with a playable opening and some sort of role in the final battle – which would match the typical series’ tradition.

Zelda’s summoning abilities with the Tri Rod though look set to be the driving mechanic behind Echoes Of Wisdom, allowing her to conjure creatures and imitate other objects scattered around the world.

We don’t have to wait long to find out Link’s role either, with Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom set to be released on Nintendo Switch from September 26.

Zelda: Echoes Of Wisdom
Zelda is leading the charge this time (Nintendo)

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BioShock 2
Will the Big Daddy’s be back? (2K)

An early screenshot from BioShock 4 has seemingly made its way online, showing a weapon and new plasmids.

The next BioShock was officially announced way back in 2019, but it’s only recently that we received any kind of update from developer 2K Cloud Chamber.

As confirmed in a recruitment drive on LinkedIn, development is ‘ramping up’ on the sequel – which is rumoured to be open world and set in the Antarctic. There’s no indication, though, of when it will actually be released or formally revealed.

It’s not clear whether it’ll be unveiled this year or not but a leaked screenshot may have provided our first glimpse at the project, although it doesn’t exactly reveal much.

According to website MP1st, the screenshot is from an early build of the sequel, from a 2021 showcase reel. The image shows a glowing orb on top of a circular structure, along with a user interface which looks similar to previous BioShock games.

The shot also shows a ricochet shotgun weapon and various icons presumably for plasmids, which are special abilities you shoot from your hands. The icons show an electric ability, magnetism, and a stopwatch image, suggesting some sort of time manipulation mechanic.

As for the weapon, there was a ricochet upgrade in BioShock 2 for the machinegun, but the modifier wasn’t available for the shotgun – suggesting there might be improved weapon customisation in the sequel.

According to the report, the image was shared by a Visual Effects Artist at 2K, and it seems specifically chosen to not give away anything about the setting. The vast open sky certainly doesn’t rule out Antarctica though.

As for its legitimacy, the bottom of the screenshot does read ‘Parkside demo’ – which is the same codename referenced in previous reports about the sequel. If it is from an early build though, there’s every chance things have been changed since.

The recent recruitment drive, along with rumours of a BioShock remake, suggest things are moving for the franchise, but exactly how fast remains unclear.

Anyone clamouring for another BioShock experience might be better off counting down the days to Judas from BioShock director Ken Levine. While it doesn’t have a specific release date yet, a story trailer was released earlier this year.

BioShock 2
BioShock’s formula is pretty set in stone (2K)

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Aliens: Fireteam Elite key art
Fancy another? (Focus Entertainment)

Hackers have allegedly stolen internal documents from Disney, as details emerge of a sequel to Aliens: Fireteam Elite.

Disney has seemingly been compromised by a group of hackers who claim to have stolen 1.1TB of internal documents, including information about new game projects.

There’s so far been no comment from Disney on the alleged hack, but a group called Nullbulge claims to have stolen ‘every message and file possible’ from the company’s internal Slack channels. This apparently includes unreleased projects and personal information of Disney staff.

The nature of the leak suggests it won’t, in terms of video games at least, be as damaging as the Insomniac leak last year, but one project has seemingly been outed as part of the incident.

According to internal documents which have circulated online, a sequel to Aliens: Fireteam Elite is planned, or at least was. The sequel, codenamed Project Macondo, is scheduled for Q3 2025, although that plan may have changed.

The documents describe a new mode called Annihilation, which is a ‘new spin on Horde Mode with a variety of objectives and encounters’.

The project’s scope is also outlined, suggesting these documents are a pitch or from early in development. It describes having an ‘ideal scope’ of 12 hours of gameplay in the Campaign mode, and one map for Annihilation.

Released in 2021, the original Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a third person co-op shooter developed by Cold Iron Studios and published by Focus Entertainment. It did well enough to receive a paid-for expansion, titled Pathogen, in 2022, so a sequel certainly seems in the realms of possibility.

Since the alleged leak, old concept art for Fortnite has also been shared online, along with details on a new Alien related skin for Dead By Daylight. Fortnite and Dead By Daylight are often subject to leaks though, so it’s unclear if these are from the Disney hack.

If a hack through Slack rings any bells, a teenager used the same method to steal details of GTA 6 from Rockstar back in 2022. The culprit was found guilty of fraud and blackmail last year, and sentenced to a hospital prison for life.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Aliens: Fireteam Elite wasn’t great (Disney)

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Xbox 360 console
Xbox 360 – the best ever? (Microsoft)

The Monday letters page asks what’s next for FromSoftware and Soulslikes, as one reader has an unlikely theory about Emio.

To join in with the discussions yourself email

Best of the best
There’s been a lot of reminiscing about the Xbox 360 lately, in light of Microsoft’s dubious plans for the future, and I have to admit I also look back at the old console with a lot of fondness. Some have said it’s their favourite ever, which got me thinking about whether it was mine too.

It’s definitely up there. I think the other main contenders are the SNES, the PlayStation 2, and the Switch. The SNES, while definitely the best of the retro era, obviously doesn’t have a lot of genres that are on other systems, including computer systems at the time, so for me that’s out. The PlayStation 2 is the absolute golden era of the early 3D phase but going back to its games can be a bit of culture shock.

The Switch is probably the overall winner, but since it’s still going I’m going to pretend that means it doesn’t count yet. So in my opinion, the Xbox 360 is the best console ever, or at least the best retro one. It was innovative, it had great exclusives, and a wide range of game types – exactly what you want from a classic console.

Microsoft should’ve built from there, adding more Japanese support, but unfortunately they focused on Kinect instead and nothing from them was ever as a good again. Still, nobody can take the Xbox 360 era away from them, as it’s still my favourite.

Scary bargain
Regarding the reader’s letter about their cheap games bundle last Friday. I noticed that SOMA is on sale in the PlayStation Store for £2.39! I don’t think anybody could say no to this opportunity. The Amnesia collection is also going for £3.59. These deals are until July 17.

There is also a Frictional games bundle including the aforementioned plus Amnesia: Rebirth and Amnesia: The Bunker for £51.79, but I would advise patience since these two games, individually, have also been heftily reduced in the past. These deals only seem to apply to PlayStation 4, so I’m not sure if they can be played on PlayStation 5 but I can’t imagine why not.

For anyone worried about soiling their smalls then the money saved would easily cover the cost of washing detergent.
D Dubya

GC: Those are excellent deals, we’d recommend both. Not all the Amnesia game are good, but The Bunker is the best since the first one. They’ll all work on PlayStation 5.

Exclusive rumour
At the risk of being way off the mark with the very vague live action teaser for ‘Who is Emio?’ I’m going to predict a local multiplayer game that encourages households to have more than one Switch to get the best out of the game.

Something like Cluedo, a murder mystery type of thing.

It’s a wild guess I know, but the live action trailer featuring somebody with a bag over their head could be any one of us and the close up on the four fingers could signal a player count.
Bad Edit

GC: Have you ever considered a job as a video game rumourmonger?

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Home rivalry
To me, Xbox are about to give up on the console market and if the rumours are true, and they’re only bothered about North America then what’s the point of a new console? I know they have said they’re working on one, but they do a U-turn every three months.

Now Game Pass is out on Amazon Fire stick there is no need for another console from them. Will be far cheaper bringing Game Pass to other devices, which is a shame with Sony being the only home console on the market they could charge what they like for PlayStation Plus and their games.

Gibberish talk
I picked up the Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake because my TV doesn’t have a SCART socket anymore, so it was a good way for me to play it again.

Does the original have that annoying blub noise when people are talking? I don’t know what else to call it but it’s just so annoying I am struggling to play it – I’d rather have silence.

It’s awful.

GC: Yes, that’s the same as it always was. If you don’t like that, make sure you never play Banjo-Kazooie.

Retro rocket
Rocket Knight Adventures: Resparked came through the mail for me this Friday just gone, from Limited Run Games. I had pre-ordered it ages ago for the PlayStation 4. It is a crime that the original title never found a home on any 16-bit mini-console. It comes with three games: the two Mega Drive instalments and the SNES version of the sequel, which I don’t think was ever released in this country? Either way, I never had a SNES back in the day, so it was new to me.

The SNES title seems like business as usual except now the bad guys are dog-like. Or jackal-like, maybe. Also, they can transform into their canid form from the rocks in the first level! Creepy.

Also included was a nice little comic book. A housemate of mine had never seen the giant mech boxing match before, so I decided to show him the game. Now in my early 40s and not having played any of them in at least 15 years, I was very rusty and had to make liberal use of the rewind feature! It probably didn’t help that I started on it after 9pm either.

It’s still great fun to this day, even if my middle-aged bones protested afterwards. Loudly. It’s probably the best thing Konami has done in a very long time. I mean, they at least had to allow it to happen, right?

GC: Sparkster was released in Europe, back in 1994.

Virtual upgrade
I see there is a free update for the Gorn PlayStation VR game for PlayStation VR2, which GameCentral had a good review of.

This is the first time I have had a free update on PlayStation VR2, as either you have to pay to upgrade or there is no option. I am happy to pay to upgrade if it means PlayStation VR games I have bought are playable on PlayStation VR2. Here’s a trailer for Gorn which is quite humorous.
Andrew J.
Currently playing: The Touryst (PS5 version)

Change of scenery
So I’ve finally beaten Shadow Of The Erdtree and that means I’m now up-to-date with all my FromSoftware games and all the Soulslikes I have interest in at the moment. Given it’ll be a while till the next one I thought I’d try and take stock of where we are right now with the genre and what I’d like to see next.

My first thoughts are that I definitely feel the open world works. I was against it at first but by mixing in legacy dungeons as well I thought it worked perfectly and added a lot more options to how you tackle things. However, I would like a change of setting. As much as I got into the lore and working out what was going on, it wasn’t really very different to Dark Souls and I can’t see what George R. R. Martin is supposed to have added to it.

Personally, I agree that it’s long overdue that we see a sci-fi setting. There’s plenty of ways that From could maintain a Gothic atmosphere with sci-fi and although there is a question of how the combat would work, since you don’t want to be shooting people from a mile away with a laser, I’m sure they could think of something.

Just recently we’ve had Dune, which relies almost entirely on melee combat, so you only have to think up an excuse and you’re there. Warhammer 40,000 is also heavily melee-focused too, even Jedi and lightsabers, so I don’t think that’d be too much of a problem.

Steampunk might be a good compromise too, or maybe some kind of alternative fantasy setting like underwater or Ancient Greece, where all the myths are real. What I’m saying is that Elden Ring has perfected the gameplay, as far as I’m concerned, so now it’s just a question of varying the presentation.

Inbox also-rans
I like the idea of a reverse Switch Lite for Nintendo’s next console, with more power but not portable. I can’t see them doing it though. They’ve never been interested in attracting that kind of crowd or unnecessarily expensive hardware.

So not exactly game related, even though they have certainly inspired and appeared in many games since, but which order would you put these, possibly the greatest four great action films, in: RoboCop, Die Hard, Aliens, and Predator? (That’s my order by the by.)

GC: That’s difficult, especially as RoboCop has qualities beyond just being an action film. But, okay… Aliens, Die Hard, RoboCop, and Predator.

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The small print
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You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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Concord screenshot
Concord – a strangely familiar shooter (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

GameCentral reports back from a weekend of playing the Concord beta, but does Sony’s new live service online shooter offer anything new?

If there’s one thing that Concord’s controversial reveal made clear, it’s that it’s not looking to reinvent the wheel. Its unveiling had an unparalleled amount of negativity for a Sony exclusive, with complaints that both its gameplay and its Guardians of the Galaxy style characters appeared generic and uninspired. Having spent the weekend playing the beta it’s clear that these concerns are entirely warranted; the question is whether the lack of originality is so distracting that it ruins an otherwise competent online shooter.

Concord is not a difficult game to describe. Imagine Overwatch with different characters and you’re 80% there. However, the gunplay is superior to Blizzard’s game and while still not quite up to the standards of Destiny 2 it’s clearly looking to Bungie for inspiration in that regard. There is no unique selling point or gimmick with Concord though. There’s no big new idea to distinguish it from its rivals, just the fact that it’s well made and, to judge by the beta, refreshingly bug free.

Once you drill down into the details though there are some minor surprises, perhaps the biggest being that there are far more playable characters than the reveal implied: 16 in total and one of Concord’s most impressive achievements is that they’re all very distinctive, with some interestingly peculiar abilities.

In terms of personalities, the characters are as one-dimensional as they come, although there’s a promise of new cut scenes every week to flesh them out. The initial one for the beta wasn’t very promising though, with more sub-Guardians of the Galaxy style sassiness and no clear explanation of the setting. There’s a brief mention of ‘revolts’, and of being freerunners, but no real indication of what that actually means.

However, most of Overwatch’s storytelling didn’t even take place in the game, so that’s not a concern, and there certainly does seem to be a lot to work with in terms of the different characters.

A few are the usual tropes you’d expect to find in any competitive first person shooter, starting with the bog standard space marine Teo, who has a rifle, a frag grenade, and a smoke grenade. The sniper is Vale, who can jump vertically in the air and has trip wires she can attach to any surface. There’s also a tank (or anchor as the game has it – there are six class types in total) called Emari who has a minigun and a shield, although she can only use one at a time.

The other anchor is where things start getting weird, with robot 1-Off not having any gun, just a vacuum device that can suck or blow, as he uses it to collect detritus to create a ‘Trash Bomb’. Many of the characters don’t have a traditional weapon, with Daveers being one of our early favourites, as she shoots blobs of ‘burnite’ at people, before igniting it with a wrist dart.

Bazz uses only melee attacks and throwing knives, while Haymar’s crossbow is all but useless unless you charge it up by aiming downsights for a while first (oddly, she’s presented as one of the two main characters, despite being one of the hardest to get your head around). What’s immediately noticeable though is that even for those that do have ordinary guns, the time to kill for everyone is much longer than normal for an online shooter.

Without buffs, all of the weapons seem curiously underpowered, such that most of our initial success came from just punching people in the face. Whatever other games it copies from, Concord clearly isn’t interested in being a Call Of Duty clone, with almost every character having an interesting ability that isn’t directly related to combat.

Dunchess, for example, can create large, permanent walls to block movement and your line of sight – in fact, every object dropped by a character lingers even after they die. Kyps is a robot that can drop sensor drones and who turns invisible when dodging, while Roka, who is another of our favourites, can hover in the air for quite a while, as she fires (slightly weedy) missile at people.

The most popular character, based on how quickly he’s snapped up on the selection screen (you can only have one of each character in your team) is Lennox, but we don’t think that’s because he’s the most prominent in the cut scenes, but simply because he’s got two ordinary guns and can heal. Likewise, Jabail is another favourite because he’s a healer and has a simple-to-use rifle and heat-seeking ‘hunter orbs’.

Concord screenshot
Concord – the Anchors can take a lot of damage (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The line-up is impressive, but it doesn’t really make much use of the sci-fi setting. Not only do we have no idea what’s going on, but there’s only a few aliens. Star Child, who talks exactly like Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy, is just a Hulk-like brute with a shotgun, but the other two aliens are two of the best characters, which makes you wish there were more.

It-Z is a very enthusiastic cross between a catgirl and Green Goblin that is basically Tracer from Overwatch, with similar teleport powers. Meanwhile, Lark is some kind of plant person, with the ability to set-up a teleportation spot you can return to after a second’s build-up – it’s just a shame her gun is so unsatisfying to use.

On a micro scale, Concord does have plenty of unique ideas but it’s a pity it’s all presented in such an anodyne fashion. The maps might be the worst culprit, as while they’re all very well designed the settings are so completely lacking in personality they could run for Parliament. It’s all just monochrome corridors, most of which don’t even look very sci-fi, with zero interactivity or sense of place.

The appeal of Concord depends very much on your attitude towards the genre in general but apart from the long time to kill the emphasis on dodging is interesting, with some characters also able to jump up to three times. There’re also health recharge spots in every map, that are fairly quick to use, and while none of this is even close to groundbreaking it is proof that the game is offering a slightly different flavour of competitive shooter to the norm.

If you excuse the lack of originality – and that is a very big if – then Concord is a perfectly enjoyable online multiplayer game. The most obvious problem, beyond the sense of déjà vu, is the balancing, which while hard to judge after just a weekend seems all over the place, especially in terms of weapon power and the amount of damage some characters can take.

Also, all the imagination poured into the character abilities has not been reflected by the game modes, which are as bog standard as you can get: Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed (both with respawns) and minor variations of King of the Hill and Capture the Flag (with no respawns). It must’ve taken all of five minutes to come up with that and while the beta implies there’ll be more modes in the final game there’s no guarantee there’ll be any more inventive.

The final problem is that, surprisingly, this is not free-to-play. It’s not full price either but has the same pricing structure as Helldivers 2. And given how well that did Sony no doubt feel it’s worth trying their luck again. They may well be right too, as the history of video games makes it very clear that, despite all the cries for new ideas, most people usually prefer something more familiar.

Concord is certainly that but judging by the beta it’s also entertaining and highly polished. Whether it’s appealing enough for people to want to dedicate time to remains to be seen, but it’s not the complete disaster that the initial reveal seemed to imply.

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PC
Price: £34.99
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Firewalk Studios
Release Date: 23rd August 2024
Age Rating: 12

Concord screenshot
Concord – it’s got a good line-up of characters (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

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