This Week in Games: April 21, 2012

Apple isn't actually working with Valve on a Steam Box, God of War is getting another prequel, Halo 4 is hitting at the same time as Call of Duty, and Prey 2 isn't canceled.

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Lots of stuff that we'd like your thoughts on this week; Is a new version of New Super Mario Bros. enough to be a system seller for the Wii U? Do you think that Link author John Beiswenger has a case against Ubisoft? Even though all the recent Apple and Valve news has been based on speculation and misinformation, do you think there's any merit to the idea of Apple working on a games platform? Which of this year's big shooters are you looking forward to the most, and why? Do you think Microsoft is nuts for putting Halo 4 out in November rather than September? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Mario on Wii U at E3? For Sure

Hardly surprising, but just so you know, Mario for the Wii U is definitely happening. "In a recent interview, Mr. Miyamoto confirmed that a new Super Mario Bros. game for the Wii U system will be shown at this year's E3 Expo," a Nintendo representative told us this week. "This is based on the Mario experience that was demonstrated at last year's E3 Expo. We'll have more to announce about our plans for the E3 Expo at a later date." That's pretty much all there is to say at this point, but it's important, so there you go.

Author Claims He Thought of Assassin's Creed First

As you can imagine, Beiswenger is already falling victim to a good old-fashioned user-review bombing on the book's Amazon page by angry AC fans.

One of the most popular stories on the site this week was word that science-fiction author John Beiswenger is suing Ubisoft, accusing the publisher of copyright infringement due to similarities between his 2002 novel Link and the Assassin's Creed franchise. As the suit notes, "In 'Link,' the Beiswenger's plot includes the conception and creation of a device and process whereby ancestral memories can be accessed, recalled, relived, and re-experienced by the user." It also contains a device to access those memories described similarly to the Animus in Assassin's Creed. The suit notes that both Beiswenger's novel and the Assassin's Creed games contain spiritual and biblical overtones, a theme of good battling evil, and interactions with historically accurate people and places. As you can imagine, Beiswenger is already falling victim to a good old-fashioned user-review bombing on the book's Amazon page by angry AC fans.

The Apple Pie Is a Lie

Remember last week when we were led to believe that Apple CEO Tim Cook had visited the guys at Valve thanks to a story originated by Apple Insider? We speculated a number of possible scenarios: Could the companies be working together on hardware? User interface? A future iteration of the App Store for games? Apple's A6 CPU as the heart of the Steam Box? Lots of people expressed their opinions in the comments on the subject last week, so no doubt this little gem will get everyone fired up even more: Apple news blog Cult of Mac took the rumor and ran with it, reporting that Apple is preparing a TV set for release later this year that "will come with an Apple-branded, Kinect-like video game console." According to the site, the system will rely on motion and touch controls, possibly through a touch-screen remote that will come with the TV. And the Valve connection? This new system will also integrate the company's mythical Steam Box project.

The problem with all this? It's a big fat lie. Speaking with the Seven Day Cooldown podcast for its inaugural episode, Newell squashed the rumors, saying, "Nobody here was meeting with Tim Cook or with anybody at Apple that day. I wish we were. We have a long list of things we'd love to see Apple do to support games and gaming better, but no, we didn't meet with Tim Cook." When asked if he felt Apple and Valve had similar corporate values, Newell diplomatically answered to the contrary. "We think that our business interests are served best long term by operating in a way that's consistent with open, collaborative approaches with both our customers and our partners," Newell said. "I'd say Nintendo and Apple are a lot closer together than Valve and Apple are. They both have such a strong, clear design ethic, and if you want to go along for the ride, you can. But it'd be hard to see the Steam Workshop coming out in the context of something that Apple does."

You should definitely check out the whole episode of the Seven Day Cooldown podcast, here.

Kratos Has Always Been Pissed, Apparently

While it was not the most informative trailer ever, we were all pleased to see Sony's teaser for God of War: Ascension this week. Details are fairly scarce so far, but here's what we do know: it's a prequel, it's on the PS3, it's single-player only, Linda Hunt is still doing the voice-over, the concept sounds quite a lot like that of Chains of Olympus, and it's due spring 2013. As usual, Kratos seems to be kind of pissed about all this. Here's the trailer in case you missed it.

In related news, the outfit behind the God of War series may be starting up a new franchise in the near future. Sony's Santa Monica studio has posted a job listing for a senior combat designer to work on an unannounced new intellectual property. The listing doesn't detail what the new IP will be, but details can be inferred from some of the requirements and duties for candidates. The studio is looking for developers who have experience with first- or third-person shooters, as well as those who have designed vehicle combat in a game before. The designer's duties will also involve seeing boss designs through from concept to execution, and a variety of tuning functions, including "magic distribution." Any guesses for what it could be? Let us know in the comments.

Shooter Announcementgasms

You want unveilings and news about the year's big shooters? This week was like a shotgun blast to the face. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Crysis 3, and Halo 4...

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (possibly the worst-kept secret in gaming right now) may finally see an official announcement next month, as reports circulated earlier this week about a poster from "a retail source" that suggests an announcement is imminent. The ad featured a close-up but blurred image of a shadowy figure holding a gun, the date "05/02/12," and the tagline "Return for Debriefing." Along the bottom of the poster are the logos of Activision and Treyarch. A Black Ops sequel would be less than surprising at this point. The game has already been spotted on French and Spanish retailer websites, and an employee at a contract art studio listed work for Black Ops 2 on his resume. So if it's really Codblops 2, what do you think the story will be? More Cold War shenanigans? Something more modern? Or something a little more futuristic like Modern Warfare? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

A Black Ops sequel would be less than surprising at this point. The game has already been spotted on French and Spanish retailer websites, and an employee at a contract art studio listed work for Black Ops 2 on his resume.

After news leaked out last week, EA announced Crysis 3 as a "spring 2013" title. The new game, set in 2047, sees returning character Prophet discover New York sealed inside a dome by the nefarious Cell Corporation. Under New York's Liberty Dome, the city has become an "urban rainforest teeming with overgrown trees, dense swamplands and raging rivers," according to EA and is split into seven distinct and treacherous environments known as the Seven Wonders.

If Crysis 3 isn't your cup of tea, how about a Halo 4? The game will be released "worldwide" on November 6, Microsoft confirmed this past Tuesday. This puts it extremely close to the projected release date of the next Call of Duty, and right in the thick of silly season--a space that Microsoft has usually kept the Halo franchise well away from. Do you think this is a wise move?

Recently suggested by Nielsen to be gamers' most anticipated title of 2012, the game represents "a new beginning" for the franchise, according to the chaps at 343 Industries, and is set four years after the events of Halo 3. It will see Master Chief "confront his destiny and face an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe." Coincidentally, we have 30 brand-new images for Halo 4 that you can check out here. Check them out; you won't regret it.

Prey 2 Not Canceled After All

Remember a few weeks ago when everyone thought that Prey 2 had been canceled? Turns out that's not the case. Bethesda commented Thursday, saying the game isn't dead yet, but it won't be coming anytime soon. "Development of Prey 2 has not been cancelled but the game will not be released in 2012 as planned," the publisher told us. "The delay is due to the fact that game development has not progressed satisfactorily this past year, and the game does not currently meet our quality standards. Prey 2 has shown great promise and we regret disappointing our fans. We have made a substantial investment in game development to deliver the experience fans want. We are determined only to release the AAA game that fans rightfully expect, and are unwilling to compromise our quality standards to meet a release schedule." Given the very vocal disappointment at the rumors of its demise, this is good news.

On the Subject of Call of Duty

Call of Duty has yet to stray from its first-person shooter roots, but Activision has apparently been trying to expand the brand for some time. A prototyped Call of Duty project was uncovered this week by gaming sleuth superannuation, which found a video clip of the game on a developer's personal website (which has since been taken down). The clip began with an over-the-shoulder third-person view of a soldier firing a bazooka, then backed out to an overhead perspective that showed four soldiers taking down an enemy post in a coordinated effort. The gameplay seemed to be a form of real-time tactical combat, with the interface allowing players to monitor lines of sight, soldiers' health bars, and ammunition. The clip was listed as a Call of Duty project, which the animator in question presumably worked on during his six-year stint at Vicarious Visions. According to superannuation, the game was "briefly a thing around 2009 or so." Company of Heroes-style gameplay in the Call of Duty universe? What do you think? Would you have been into that? Or should COD always be a shooter?

Diablo III Beta Open All Weekend

After last week's announcement that it would be inviting in a further 275,000 Diablo III beta testers, Blizzard has opened the floodgates to fans with a one-weekend stress-testing open beta. The beta will be open to anyone with a Battle.net account, and the client is available to download here. Participants in the Open Beta Weekend will get access until 10 a.m. PT Monday. Player classes will be unrestricted, but players will not be able to take their characters past level 13. Blizzard says the purpose of the open beta weekend is to "put the game and servers through their paces" ahead of the launch next month. What are you waiting for? Go get it!

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