April’s Video Game Roster: The Show 21, Outriders and Bike Racers
To certain sports fans out there, one of the most significant developments in video games will be happening in the month of April, where a longstanding series will finally be breaking free from a lengthy exclusivity deal. This is a big deal that’s been a long time coming, and with its preplanned release and the shift in seasons, it’s not surprising that the rest of the offerings throughout April aren’t that attention-grabbing.
With that being said, there are a few other solid new releases to keep other gamers occupied, from a new sci-fi shooter-RPG and a novel spinoff from the popular Yakuza series to another installment in a low-key popular racing franchise. Let’s take a closer look.
Outriders – April 1 (PS4, PS5; XBOX O/S/X; Stadia; PC)
Next month, gamers will be able to relive the original Mass Effect experience all over again, and while several aspects contribute to that franchise’s popularity, one of the key successes can be found in how the gameplay mixes shooting and spellcasting with its “biotics” abilities. Outriders taps into a similar premise, only it extrapolates much further on the potential. After a colonization mission goes south due to the emergence of the Anomaly – a life-altering energy storm – the player’s customized character awakens from cryostasis several decades later to find the environment in shambles and the human remnants embroiled in civil war.
They also awake to find that their body has been altered by the Anomaly, in a way determined by the player’s selection of 4 different classes, and that they’re not the only ones given gifts by the Anomaly: other humans now also have those almost superhero-like abilities. Either solo or with cooperative buddies along for the ride, Outriders tosses them into the harrowing, alien-populated expanses of the world, guns and spells in tow and a skill tree ready to fill up.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page — April 6 (PS4; XBX; Switch; PC)
Rhianna Pratchett – daughter of the late renowned fantasy author Terry Pratchett – has been, in one way or another, responsible for some of the more compelling video game narratives of the past few console generations: Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge, the rebooted Tomb Raider, several others. Lost Words: Beyond the Page brings her writing focus down to a smaller, intimate scale, in which a family story is told around the gameplay mechanics of a young girl walking throughout the pages of her diary, changing in subtle ways depending on the multiple-choice word options selected by the player.
Light platforming gameplay guides the character through vibrant side-scrolling level design as it spins a tale about the heartbreak of losing someone and the importance of discovering purpose, a game largely uninterested in difficulty and more about drawing those playing into the themes being crafted.
MLB The Show 21 – April 20 (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X)
Yup, The Show was an exclusive on PlayStation consoles for almost exactly a decade and a half, providing one of the more peculiar, yet effective console exclusives for the past 3-4 generations. Why exactly the decision was made to jump onto rival consoles this time isn’t clear, except for the obvious: a much wider audience of players will now have access to the game, which of course increases the opportunity for revenue later down the line. It’ll be part of Microsoft’s Game Pass program as a free download at launch to celebrate the happening, so Xbox players will want to keep an eye out for that … but really, the money’s still going to come through in-game purchases.
Thing is, The Show sees this opportunity and knows it should deliver something special, resulting in the inclusion of some potent new aspects such as stadium creation, additional immersion aspects in the career mode, and cross-platform play between platform types. Not only is exclusivity broken, but players on different machines can play against one another on The Show’s first step up to this plate. That’s pretty impressive.
MotoGP 21 – April 22 (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; Stadia; PC)
Racing titles – especially motorcycle racers — have a special lineage in the history of video games, as the velocity and responsiveness of flooring it through tracks was one of the earliest effective usages of realistic graphics. While the likes of Road Rash’s battle bike design established a reputation early, the more focused simulators gradually gained in popularity, especially those under the MotoGP official branding in the PS2 era.
Since, the rights to MotoGP has shifted from studio to studio, and now we’re in the middle of Italian developer Milestone’s tenure, slated to last until 2026. Also the folks behind the Ride and Monster Energy Supercross racing franchises, Milestone brings a reliable prestige to each title that comes out from them, with MotoGP 20 being a unique title that depicts the season as if COVID hadn’t happened. MotoGP 21 will likely see mild improvements to simulation and immersion aspects.
Judgment – April 23 (PS5; Xbox O/S/X; Stadia)
Yakuza is currently in a state of transformation, exploring new protagonists and gameplay styles within the same general universe created within SEGA’s popular franchise. Like a Dragon rolls the dice on both a new lead character and a turn-based battle system, and fans were surprisingly warm and welcome to the changes, something that can be tricky for even other franchises under SEGA’s umbrella; they’re the house of Sonic, after all.
With franchise mastermind Toshihiro Nagoshi at the helm, they also took another risk with Judgment, though it’s probably considered a lower risk. While the gameplay sticks to the action-based fluidity of previous installments in Yakuza, the perspective shifts to that of a private investigator, and some of the gameplay complexity branches off from that change in objective. Critics haven’t been entirely positive toward the superficiality of the investigation mechanics, but the overall shift in objectives for Judgment has been embraced, and will continue to do so with this upgraded release on PS5 and debut on Xbox consoles and Stadia.
Between MotoGP and Judgment, the Stadia system isn’t having a bad month, as it’s also getting a port of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on April 1. A remastered edition of the classic PS1 RPG Saga: Frontier will be charging into battle on April 15, while stalwart protagonist Super Meat Boy will see his adventures come to more consoles as Super Meat Boy: Forever ports over from the Switch to Xbox One and PS4 on April 16. A remastered version of the Nier: Replicant variant of the game from Cavia and Square Enix will be coming on April 23. Rounding things out for the month will be R-Type 2 Final, the first official release from the franchise in over 15 years, coming in on April 29-30.