ZeniMax and Bethesda acquired by Microsoft

Microsoft has announced today that they will acquire ZeniMax Media and its studios like Bethesda Softworks, id Software, MachineGames, Arkane and others for $7.5 billion in cash. Around 2300 employees will now work for the XBox ecosystem, and their games will be released on day one on the PC and XBox consoles – and also in the XBox Game Pass, even if some of the games will still be released on Playstation consoles and other platforms. Many of these studios have been some pioneers of the games on Windows PC and XBox consoles, so Microsoft said it has been an easy decision for them. The acquisition should be finalized at the end of 2021.

Peter Hines, the vice-president of Bethesda, has declared that this acquisition was a big opportunity for Bethesda to go forward and have access to the huge resources of Microsoft, which has been a partner of their studios for a very long time.

Phil Spencer, the head of XBox division in Microsoft, has commented this acquisition on CNBC:

 

BJ and his family and friends celebrate the 4th of July!

The official twitter account of the Wolfenstein series has published a picture of BJ celebrating the national day of USA with his family and friends:

We can see most of the heroes of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, like his wife Anya and his daughters Jess and Soph, Fergus Reid and Probst Wyatt together (even if BJ had to let live only one of them in Wolfenstein: The New Order), Set Roth in the rocking chair, Bombate and his girlfriend Sigrun Engel (the daughter of Frau Irene), Horton Boone, Grace Walker and her baby (with Jess and Soph as babies). Note that BJ is preparing a barbecue… in the mouth of a Panzerhund! Happy 4th of July to our heroes!

The Art of Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Bethesda and Dark Horse Books will release on 20th June 2020 the book “The Art of Wolfenstein: Youngblood“, with all the concept art and pictures of the environments and characters of the game:

Filled with amazing art and exclusive commentary, this gorgeous hardcover art book invites its reader to delve deep into this superb collection of production material from the latest romp into the world of Wolfenstein. This item is a must-have for sisters, brothers, and all other champions for the cause!

You can preorder the book on Amazon US for $49.99 US, on Amazon Canada for $65.33 CAN, on Amazon UK for £36.95, and on Amazon France for 47.70€.

The RTX patch of Wolfenstein: Youngblood out this week (updated)

nvidia and Bethesda have announced that the long-awaited patch of the game Wolfenstein: Youngblood enabling the ray-tracing technology on nvidia RTX graphic cards will be released in the upcoming days, 6 months after the release of the game. They have also released a new video showing the difference in the game when the technology is on and off:

The patch will also enable the DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) technology that will improve the performances of the game thanks to a special trained AI deep learning algorithm that will dynamically adjust the aliasing of the graphics of the game.

These options can be enabled in the graphic settings of the game, provided you have a Geforce RTX graphic card. You can find more details about the patch in this post.

Update: the patch of the game has been released last Thursday along with new nvidia drivers 441.87 released earlier, needed to get the feature working correctly on nvidia Geforce 2060 cards and above.

With the RTX technology in the latest Wolfenstein game, it’s always good to remember where we come from with this video of all the enemies of the Wolfenstein games, from Wolfenstein 3-D to Youngblood, recorded by the Games Intros & Finales youtube channel:

 

Patch 1.0.7 for Wolfenstein: Youngblood with new content

Bethesda and MachineGames have released the patch 1.0.7 for Wolfenstein: Youngblood with some new content for the game: a new mission called “Treasure Hunt” in a secret place of the Da’at Yichud in Paris, new enemies, new abilities and signals, and new skins – check this page on the blog of Bethesda for more details. It is already available on PC, XBox One and PS4, and will come soon on Nintendo Switch.

Two former MachineGames developers open their new studio

Two former technical artists who worked on Wolfenstein games, Michael Paixao and Joel Jonsson, have open their own game development studio called Bad Yolk Games in Sweden (in Uppsala like MachineGames), according to Game Industry Biz, after some legal disputes with the owner of their former employer, ZeniMax Media. They promote a more healthy work environment for employees, unlike MachineGames were the culture of “crunches” and overtime was quite usual. Paixao has previously worked in Ubisoft Massive on The Division, were the crunch culture was quite the same – unlike Ubisoft Montreal where I work, where the crunches are less frequent. We’ll see how these great principles will face the reality of small studios and short plannings and funding…

Their first project made with Unreal Engine 4 and Houdini (for 3D animations) has been revealed at the GamesCom : Main Assembly. It’s available in Steam Early Access. Here is the trailer of the game:

Wolfenstein anniversary & Youngblood updates

Bethesda has released the patch 1.0.3 of Wolfenstein: Youngblood at the beginning of the month with some improvements and crashes fixes, while the patch 1.0.4 has been published some days ago, with the possibility to pause – at last! – the game in solo mode.

Note that the following patch 1.0.5 will add some extra checkpoints and difficulty adjustments in the game, especially for its final boss – waaay to difficult! The support of the ray-tracing for Geforce RTX cards will be enabled in a later patch.
Edit: The patch has been released today August, 28th. Here is the release note.

And this week we celebrate an anniversary: ten years ago, Wolfenstein was released by Raven and id Sofware! A decade before Youngblood, this was the first attempt to make a Wolfenstein game as an open world, with a hub and missions to complete… It also led BJ to some alternate dimensions like the Veil, where he could use his powers to defeat his enemies, while facing some creatures full of energy from this dimension. The boss fight again Hans Grosse was also quite memorable! Here is the launch trailer of the game:

More reviews of Wolfenstein: Youngblood

One week after the release of the game, more reviews have been posted about the game. The MetaCritic score has reached some very weak values of 71% on PC, 64% on PS4, 68% on XBox One and 65% on Nintendo Switch, and 67% for OpenCritic on all platforms. It’s even worse for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, with a MetaCritic score of 54% on PC and 51% on PS4, and even 49% on OpenCritic, making it the worst Wolfenstein game ever released.

For instance, VCG notes that:

New Colossus fans will probably dislike its unfocused narrative and fussy levelling system, but Youngblood offers plenty of blood and thunder if you give it time.

Critical Hit is even more critical…

Wolfenstein Youngblood is a disappointingly bland shooter that fails to capture the intensity or passion of New Order and New Colossus, delivering a humdrum experience plagued by uninteresting design and grindy gameplay

But some sites like GameRant are more positive, and see the game as a nice way to try new gameplay ideas:

Wolfenstein: Youngblood offers a great gameplay loop that will likely keep FPS fans busy for a few dozen hours, even if it doesn’t quite deliver in terms of character and world-building. This first interation of a progression system feels like a success and hopefully it becomes a staple of the franchise moving forward.

Here is a good summary from Rock Paper Shotgun:

First reviews of Wolfenstein: Youngblood and Cyberpilot VR

The games have been released last Thursday and Friday, and have been reviewed by most of the major videogames sites.

With a mean score of 72 % on PS4 and 76 % on PC on MetaCritic (with scores for other consoles pending), and 75% on OpenCritic, Wolfenstein: Youngblood has a smaller score than Wolfenstein 2, but it’s still good.

Here are some excerpts from some of these reviews:

PlayStation Universe praises the quality of the characters, especially the dialogs between the sisters and Abby:

This trio is by far the best part of the narrative side of Youngblood. Jess and Soph are delightfully quirky, behaving and making jokes exactly how siblings would. The banter between them is some of the best dialogue in a game this year and the Wolfenstein series overall. There are countless memorable moments between them, such as when they approach their first Nazi and realize just how woefully nervous and unprepared they are, leading to one of the multiple genuine laugh-out-loud moments throughout the game.

However, they’re less convinced by the quality of the storyline of the game. They love the action and the dynamics of the game too!

Multiple additions to the combat in Wolfenstein: Youngblood makes it the most dynamic and fun in the series.

… with new abilities – like the double jump – for the powersuit and some new weapons and ammunitions. They also like how the levels have been created, as they’re more open and vertical, and should be explored in order to get some useful loot.

I loved exploring every nook and cranny of the environments that Arkane had created, not only because they were interesting and varied across the five explorable districts of Paris, but gorgeous to look at as well.

Anyway, ScreenRant is quite disappointed by their lack of life and originality:

The length of the game wouldn’t be as much of an issue if it felt as if there was a lot of content, but Wolfenstein: Youngblood wastes its potential with its small scope. The streets of Paris are small and barren, with the same selection of enemies repeating over and over again, which is also true of the numerous facilities that the players need to explore in missions. The fact that Paris is abandoned (outside of a single mission hub) leaves the game world feeling empty and lifeless.

They have also some concerns with the AI of the game, especially when the other sister is played by the AI in solo, and doesn’t revive you properly during combat. They conclude that:

There was a lot of potential in the idea for Wolfenstein: Youngblood but itfeels more like a proof of concept for something bigger than a full-fledged experience.

Here is the video review of IGN:

 

Wolfenstein: CyberPilot VR was also released the same day, and the score are worse, with a mean score of 59 % on PS4 on MetaCritic, and a pending score around 57% on PC, and even 55% on OpenCritic, this is definitely the first big failure of MachineGames.

For instance, VRFocus complains about the lack of fun and immersion when the player is high above the enemies in the cockpit of a nazi machine:

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot has some good ideas which would be great if the developers explored them more. The storyline kept things moving along nicely and the sections in between the main levels were pleasant enough, especially for a first time VR player. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot could’ve been so much more, yet it’s short lifespan and lack of additional content will make it a play once and forget experience.

Destructoid adds that:

That’s really the crux of Cyberpilot‘s problems, as it’s just a few hours long. There’s four main missions, with the last being by far the most promising, allowing the player to swap (on cue) between all three machines. By the time the credits rolled I was ready to do that mission over again but there isn’t much else to do. Small diversions like minigames where you have to repair the mechs before missions seem cool at first, almost like the game is building toward some epic puzzles, but never go anywhere and end up feeling like busywork.

Here is the video review of PSVR: