The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners Review

Imagine what would happen if you took a half-season of The Walking Dead TV show, mashed it together with a Deus Ex or System Shock style of exploration and decision-making, and then drizzled it with the best aspects of a modern VR game. What you might end up with is a survival horror game that’s oppressively tense and brutal, but also tugs on you relentlessly to explore every corner of its post-apocalyptic world for hidden loot and nuggets of lore. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is exactly that, and it absolutely nails the mix, delivering it with a level of detail and a depth of interactivity that feels like a genuine step forward for virtual reality.

You play as the Tourist, a storied survivor and living urban legend who seems to be immune to the fictional virus that makes everybody else a little bitier in The Walking Dead universe. You’ve rolled into the sunken remains of New Orleans following a rumor about a buried hotbed of limitless supplies called the Reserve, and the rest is up to you. It’s a simple setup, but one that’s perfect for the size and scope of Saints & Sinners because it doesn’t immediately saddle you with any presumptions about your character’s morality.

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You’re introduced to New Orleans by your old buddy Henri, but the moral choices you’ll make while navigating its several open-ended zones are yours alone. As an Obsidian fan, I was pleased to find that there were several major factions fighting for control of the Reserve, each with their own perspective on the bleak situation around you. One such moral choice involves a mission where a faction member will send you to rescue their brother in exchange for an important item, and it’s fantastic that you can then choose to upend the original mission and kill the brother, earning his captors as allies and instead taking the item by force – if that’s the path you prefer, of course. Saints & Sinners’ ending depends entirely on the decisions you make throughout the campaign too, few of which are decidedly ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

All that choice makes the Tourist primarily a shell for you to insert your own personality into, with decent voice acting that gives life to each dialogue option, much like Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series. By comparison, Telltale’s The Walking Dead accomplished some truly great feats of cinematic storytelling and meaningful decision-making in its hostile and zombie-riddled world, but it never gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. That’s something I had craved for years when I was a regular watcher of The Walking Dead TV series, and while Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead certainly made me care about Clementine, it never made me feel like I was in that world.

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Saints & Sinners scratches that itch with the grace and confidence of a well-lubricated bowie knife. The portrayal of killing zombies – or walkers – has never been as satisfying as it is here, and the abject terror of an unexpected walker swarm has never been as palpable. Zombie guts and brains are rendered with great detail, but what really grounds you in this world is the fact that weapons have appropriate weight and heft. Heavy weapons like axes and rifles require you to grip them with both hands for stability, while small weapons like shivs are much lighter and easier to land precise blows with. It’s not as nuanced as a game like Boneworks; you can’t wield just any item as a weapon, but this combat system is far more tactile and exciting than if you were doing it remotely with a gamepad or a keyboard.

Diseased walkers explode and unleash poisonous gases that lower your health pool when killed up close, meanwhile helmeted walkers are far tougher to kill, requiring a complete decapitation or extremely precise blows to exposed parts of their heads. This increased challenge only adds to the intensity of fighting an entire pack of walkers at once, a common occurrence later on, as you need to quickly pick and choose which walkers need to be killed in which way and in which order to preserve the durability of your best weapons. Rapidly juggling my inventory in real-time to acclimate to each fight forced me to be smarter and, as a result, Saints & Sinners never fell into that Action-RPG trap of becoming repetitive. I spent a little over 18 hours in the campaign – the story itself is a few hours shorter than that, but it was just loads of fun to complete scavenging runs and hunt for secret recipes on my own.

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The walkers and human NPCs themselves have their own agendas too, often interacting with one another in interesting and useful ways. While the AI isn’t always the most bright, causing enemies to sometimes get stuck in hilarious and vulnerable positions, an impressive amount of the unfurling drama that makes Saints & Sinners exciting is simulated in real-time rather than deliberately scripted. To my satisfaction, I found that many of the quests allowed me to choose my own path to a solution, and it was a delight to discover alternate routes and secrets, even if the map can feel a little nondescript or claustrophobic at times. Even when I was presented with straightforward options for moving through a group of wary human NPCs or solving a quest with diplomacy – or simply by attacking an NPC directly – I could just as easily avoid interacting with certain characters altogether, either by attracting a herd of walkers and sneaking past the ensuing carnage, or by climbing over the side of a wall or up the side of a house. That freedom to tackle a situation so many different ways is fantastic.

And though the bigger story about breaking into the Reserve can sometimes feel pretty thin between long periods of exploring, looting, killing, and crafting my way through the streets of New Orleans, it was refreshing for a VR game to let me define my character through my own decisions in a setting as meticulously detailed and open-ended as this. While Saints & Sinners isn’t exactly the first of its kind, this caliber of storytelling reaches a height that VR had otherwise yet to achieve.

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Central to the tension of Saints & Sinners is that you only get so much time each day to do things before the city’s bells are rung and the streets flood with ravenous corpses. Once you head back to safety you can go to sleep and skip to the next morning, but the number of undead you encounter the following day increases. This creates a compelling risk-reward choice between pushing your luck past dark or playing it safe at the cost of worse odds tomorrow, driving the tension of the entire game.

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That dilemma would be perfectly manageable if not for the fact that you only have a limited amount of inventory space, pushing you to think more carefully about what you grab. You also have to continue crafting or finding new weapons as your old ones tend to fall apart at a distressingly high rate. That forces you to make each attack count, which is easier said than done since you actually have to swing and aim with your real-world appendages. With a ticking clock looming behind all that, Saints & Sinners quickly becomes the perfect storm for adrenaline junkies.

Luckily, the inventory management is intuitive and feels great. Picking up items and placing them into your backpack is as simple as throwing them over your shoulder, and to access them again you simply grab the pack off of your back and pull items out of their neatly arranged slots. Meanwhile, weapons can be holstered in convenient slots on your waist and back while your journal and flashlight fit snugly on your chest. This style of physical inventory management has existed in VR games like Rec Room and Township Tale for some time, and it’s far more interactive and interesting than simply tapping on a menu screen with your fingers or pointing at some text with a laser pointer.

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Limited stamina is also a worry. Running out of stamina makes you slow and unable to swing, aim, or run away, meaning it’s all the more critical to land each and every blow with finesse. Likewise, having a strong weapon or beefed up stamina pool makes you feel satisfyingly powerful, but never so much that you can let your guard down, keeping combat engaging even as you get stronger.

If you do die to the shambling hordes, you’re forced to respawn at the start of the map while the day’s clock is still ticking, and you only get one chance to reclaim your inventory before it’s gone forever. As time wears on, high-quality supplies and weapons can become so difficult to find that scrounging up a broken bottleneck or screwdriver in the nick of time is sometimes the difference between life and death. This, mixed with the fact that your health and stamina pools are temporarily decreased when you die, is a perfect formula for some of the most terrifying moments I’ve had in a VR headset – but that terror was met with an equal amount of satisfaction if I could make it back to my loot and come out alive after.

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It is disappointing that character progression is fairly linear, with only a few tech trees to branch into – Gear, Guns, and Survival – and no mutual exclusivity between them. There’s nothing stopping you from unlocking every possible upgrade at the crafting stations in short order, just as long as you can find the right components from scrapping items you find in the world, similar to Fallout 4. It’s plenty of fun to use newfound upgrades like the Nail Bomb and the Grass Cutter, and there are some recipes that you first have to uncover the hidden nooks and crannies of New Orleans to find, but it’s too bad that there’s no real way to personalize your Tourist beyond the story choices you make.

Torchlight Frontiers Is Now Torchlight 3, Can Be Played Offline

The previously announced Torchlight Frontiers, which was previously announced as an action MMORPG, will be scaled back into a more traditional ARPG. As such, Perfect World Entertainment and developer Echtra Games announced that Torchlight Frontiers is being renamed as Torchlight 3.

“During development, you often discover what type of product a game was meant to be and we found Torchlight Frontiers was meant to be a true successor to Torchlight 1 & 2,” said Echtra Games CEO Max Schaefer.

“Based on this and extensive feedback from our Alpha testers, we decided it was time to take the game back to its roots and model it after the classic Torchlight games that ARPG fans have come to love.”

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Torchlight Frontiers was announced back in 2018 as a shared-world action-RPG where players can crawl through dungeons together. IGN came away with a positive impression of the shared world when we previewed Torchlight Frontiers in 2018.

However, Echtra seems to believe that a more traditional approach is in order. Instead of going free-to-play, Torchlight 3 will be a purchasable game title with full access to all the playable content. So basically a traditional game release.

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Furthermore, Torchlight 3 will be playable online or off and feature a more linear structure similar to the first two Torchlight games. Torchlight 3 still has online multiplayer and character classes:
The Dusk Mage, Forged, and Railmaster.

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Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.

Pokemon: Rookie Mom Dominates Tournament, Becomes Social Media Sensation

A tweet about a Pokemon TCG tournament has gone viral thanks to the surprising performance of a mom named Pam (via ComicBook.com).

The tweet thread from @CarolineDirectr tells the story of how she invited her mother Pam to join in on her weekend Pokemon tournament at Core TCG in Pasadena, CA — a pre-release for the new Sword and Shield set. Pam sheepishly asked her daughter if it was okay for her to watch the Pokemon tournament, but Caroline went one further and taught her how to play so she could be a part of the competition.

What Caroline likely didn’t expect was for her mother to not only beat her when they were pitted against each other in the third round of the tournament but to continue doing well enough to finish in the Top 8. The tournament had upwards of 40 competitors. The final photo shows Pam alongside the other top finishers gleefully holding up her prizes.

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The story is incredibly sweet in how it shows Pam as just a mom who wants to have fun joining in on her daughter’s game but isn’t too familiar with Pokemon — “She was calling Raichu ‘Rikkuhchu’ and Salandit ‘Sizzle’ all while owning her opponents,” Caroline tweeted — yet that didn’t stop her from stomping the competition and coming away from the tournament with a handful of booster packs. Clearly, Pam is a natural.

The tweets caught on with Pokemon fans and earned Pam a heap of praise and admiration. Much was made of Pam’s smiling competitive game-face, the last thing her opponent’s saw before their ultimate defeat.

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The new Sword and Shield expansion is ushering in some big rules changes for the TCG, including the removal of Fairy typing from the game. The Sword and Shield video games are expanding with two DLC packs, which will bring numerous Pokemon to the Galar region.

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Joshua is Senior Features Editor at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.

NBA 2K20 Commemorates Kobe Bryant With In-Game Tribute

On Sunday, January 26, Basketball player Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. As tributes continue to go up 2K Games is using its NBA 2K series to honor the basketball player as well.

An update has gone live that makes it so that when players start up NBA 2K20, they’ll be greeted with a somber memorial to Kobe Bryant. It’s a simple black and white photo of Bryant, his name, and the years 1978 – 2020.

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Bryant was a cover athlete for NBA 2K10 and has been a playable player for even longer. It’s unknown for how long the tribute will appear upon start-up, but fans are welcoming the tribute online.

Elsewhere in NBA 2K20, fans are hosting their own tributes to Bryant. In the online social spaces for NBA 2K20, players are wearing Bryant’s Lakers gear and gathering around the space as if in a virtual vigil.

On January 26, Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria, seven other individuals including the pilot, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Los Angeles. The group was on the way to a youth basketball practice in Thousand Oaks.

Bryant, a former professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, retired in 2016. The Lakers retired Bryant’s number 8 and 24 jerseys. Since then there has been an outpour of tributes from fellow NBA players.

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Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.

 (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Resident Evil: Resistance Is Not Canon, Says Capcom

Project Resistance is not official Resident Evil canon, according to Capcom, despite its inclusion in the upcoming Resident Evil 3 remake.

Events within the 4v1 multiplayer mode make it “impossible to fit in the actual timeline,” Resident Evil 3 producer Peter Fabiano told Official PlayStation Magazine (via GamesRadar). Fabiano instead refers to Resistance as a “fun online experience with connections to the RE Universe,” including “familiar enemies and characters like Mastermind.”

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The producer says Resistance and Resident Evil 3 share the thematic tie of characters trying to escape, and for that reason, Capcom bundled the two games together. “You’ll remember that the Japanese subtitle for RE3 was Last Escape,” he said. “Both of these titles have characters that are trying to escape somewhere or something, so thematically it made sense.”

Following a couple teases and a leak, Resistance was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show in September. The asymmetrical multiplayer mode sees four players trying to survive and escape from a player-controlled Mastermind. You can read IGN’s Resident Evil: Resistance hands-on preview for more.

Resident Evil 3 was “about 90%” completed as of early January, leading Capcom to declare it won’t be delayed. The remake (and Project Resistance) will be released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 3.

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Jordan is a freelance writer for IGN.

Journey to the Savage Planet Review

It’s not a surprise to learn that Journey to the Savage Planet’s creative director last worked on Far Cry 4. The two games are made broadly out of the same pieces: a lush explorable map, some light looting and crafting, and a satirical story as the backbone to hold it all up. But where the Far Cry series has increasingly revolved around a single loop – go to map marker, shoot things at map marker, pick up loot – Journey to the Savage Planet attempts to explode that notion by using its open-ish world far more liberally. It succeeds, for a while.

There’s still combat, but Journey to the Savage Planet’s world is also used as a platform for non-guided exploration, puzzle solving, scavenger hunts, and loads of fart jokes. Perhaps its biggest fault is that, as time goes on, it feels as though it can’t quite escape the inexorable gravitational pull towards combat video games so often have, ending with a feeling of ‘cut-price Far Cry’, rather than the grand science fiction experiment it could and perhaps should have been.

You wouldn’t know that upon starting out, however. Journey to the Savage Planet opens with a comedic flourish – a pleasingly overblown FMV featuring the CEO of Earth’s fourth-best interstellar exploration company informs you that you’ve landed, er, ‘heavily’ on a planet, codenamed AR-Y 26, that could be used to resettle our species. Your job is to explore it, catalogue its flora and fauna, and see if there’s some kind of cosmic sludge lying around that you can use to refuel your ship and head home. With a certain inevitability, you soon discover that something else has visited AR-Y 26 before you, and your primary mission becomes to find out what it was, why it left gigantic structures all over the place and, perhaps most importantly, why it isn’t here anymore.

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It’s an intoxicating set-up, prodding you into its well conceived (if slightly low-rent) pulp sci-fi world – monsters that liberally spray Nickelodeon gunge, giant mushrooms, inexplicably floating islands and all – teaching you how to get around, and then pretty much leaving you alone. There’s a very broad, but not unenjoyable, satire at work behind all this, showing a version of future humanity devoured and repurposed by mega-corporations – which becomes just a touch ironic when you consider that the developer was bought by Google shortly before release.

Spliced DNA

Initially, Savage Planet offers the literal upward momentum and bright palette (both in colour and and emotion) of Grow Home, the slowly uncovered alien history/conspiracy of Outer Wilds, and the gameified taxonomy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Sheikah Slate camera. Ultimately, all those inspirations amount to watching a series of numbers tick up in the form of a naked quest to discover 100% of places (which, delightfully, fills your ship with postcards for them, illustrated like ‘70s novel covers), find 100% of the buried bits of alien technology, and see 100% of nature’s cruellest mistakes. That’s no bad thing, however, if the pursuit of 100% is fun along the way. When Savage Planet begins, it absolutely is.

I spent most of my opening hours obsessively scanning wildlife, working out what was coming out of the unidentified egg sacs I kept popping (turns out it’s a series of seeds, used for the likes of bouncing, grappling, or gluing prey to the floor), and returning to my ship/hub, the Javelin, to watch the Justin Roiland-flavoured adverts for dystopic products that play on every screen when you walk in. I spent almost none of those hours doing what Savage Planet asked me to, and I was very rarely reminded that I should be doing something else. It was great.

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This isn’t quite an open world game – a Metroid-esque series of upgrades have to be bought with scavenged resources in order to access new areas and biomes – but it’s surprisingly self-directed. Early on, I ignored a mission to find an alien alloy in favour of ‘looking for cool stuff in caves’, when I came across a miniature treasure puzzle hidden behind a labyrinth of crystalline tunnels. After I solved it, that same alloy popped out of a chest, and my AI sidekick, EKO, congratulated me on finding it in completely the wrong place. It was a moment that sold me on a concept – I could seemingly travel down the critical path by… not necessarily travelling down the critical path. Sadly, the further down that path I wandered, the less that concept seemed enticing.

The element I least enjoyed about those early stages was Savage Planet’s approach to combat. You’re given an upgradeable pistol early on, but are encouraged to use it to interact with the environment just as much as pop wandering Pufferbirds to see what comes out. That doesn’t stay the case – the further up AR-Y 26’s mysterious central tower you travel, the more aggressive the wildlife becomes, and the more rewards are locked behind just mindlessly shooting things. Eventually, you start finding wildlife with tiny, glowing weak spots, and even rote, pattern-led boss fights blocking your way. Coupled with the fact that pistol upgrades are almost universally dull – the most interesting being to add a ricochet effect – and exploring certain areas becomes an over-cautious chore rather than an intriguing investigation.

It’s not that I think combat shouldn’t be in this kind of game, it’s that the ratio is off – the abundance of combat doesn’t match up with how much variation you can get out of it. Far Cry has a lot of violence, and a lot of different ways to perform it; Savage Planet has quite a bit of violence too, but just a single pistol and those afore-mentioned seeds (which are, at best, extremely situational items). In the context of what systems and choices are offered as a whole, combat is the least interesting one, and yet you’re forced into it near-constantly by the final hours.

The upshot is that Savage Planet slowly devolves from a free-wheeling muckabout in an unfamiliar game world into something far more expected, and far less interesting. That hopeful, experimental core never truly disappears, but it’s shrouded by the need to dully clear out areas with your pistol before actually looking around them or solving their mysteries. By its final stages, that rush for 100% felt far less appealing.

China’s Biggest League of Legends Tournament Delayed Due to Coronavirus

The top League of Legends tournament has been delayed to ensure the safety of all its attendees in China from the coronavirus outbreak.

The League of Legends Pro League (LPL) was due to return for its second week of matches in China on February 5, 2020. However, the LPL’s English Twitter account has now announced that the tournament has been postponed with no new date for its return currently set.

The reason for the delay is the outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus in mainland China. The LPL is one of many professional sporting events held in China that have either been delayed until March 2020 or moved to another country due to the virus.

It was announced last week that 70,000 Chinese movie theatres were also being closed for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

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The coronavirus has been confirmed to be deadly. The BBC reports that it has killed over 80 people, with nearly 3000 more people confirmed to have caught the virus. It has spread to South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, Nepal, and as far as the USA, Canada, and France.

Since the coronavirus spread, sales of the strategy simulation game Plague Inc. soared, due to it being a game about containing a deadly pathogen. This caused developer Ndemic Creations to release a statement saying that the game is “not a scientific model” for how disease spreads.

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Ndemic Creations added that people should visit the World Health Organization’s website to get a real idea of how viruses like the coronavirus spread and how to best avoid catching them.

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Chris Priestman is a freelancer who writes news for IGN. Follow him on Twitter.

Two New Silent Hill Games in the Works, Report Says

Two new Silent Hill games are in the works, according to a new report from a reliable leaker, via Eurogamer.

Twitter user Aesthetic Gamer was the first to drop the new report. Aesthetic Gamer is known for reliably leaking previous Capcom titles (although Silent Hill is developed and published by Konami), and divulged some details about the supposed two new Silent Hill games. According to Aesthetic Gamer, one game will be a “soft” reboot of the franchise while the other will be an episodic experience similar to Telltale games or Until Dawn.

“In other news while I’m dropping this stuff, and I think I can talk about this, I’ll mention there is a couple new Silent Hill games in the works,” Aesthetic Gamer said. “Konami about two years ago reached out to various developers to pitch ideas for two Silent Hill games, one a soft-reboot of the franchise, the other an episodic TellTale/Until Dawn-style game to go alongside the reboot. I don’t know anything more than that though, but I sure do hope Konami’s given it the appropriate budget and found the right developer to make those games succeed.”

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Aesthetic Gamer closed out their comments by saying that they don’t know anything more about the alleged Silent Hill games, just that they exist. They also said that they guess one or more of the games may be revealed this year.

One leaker’s information wouldn’t be that much to go on, but other signs do point to developments that bolster the case for a new Silent Hill game or two existing. Silent Hill 2 art director Masahiro Ito said that he was working on “a title as a core member. I hope the title won’t be canceled.”

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Though Ito never confirmed as much, fans speculated that Ito’s “I hope the title won’t be canceled” comment could be a reference to Hideo Kojima’s infamously canceled Silent Hills game, which was preceded by the even more infamous P.T. (“Playable Teaser”) demo that spooked horror game fans back in 2014. For what it’s worth, Konami has also been spotted refiling Silent Hill trademarks that were about to lapse. Horror media site Rely on Horror also said that its own independent source also said a new Silent Hill game was in development.

And speaking of Kojima, the developer has seemingly waffled back and forth on whether or not he’d pursue a horror game after the cancelation of Silent Hills. Kojima posted a picture of his workspace, saying he was working on the concept for his next game. That said, don’t count on Kojima to work with Konami after their very public breakup following the release of Metal Gear Solid 5. He also seems to have his hands full with plans to develop smaller games, manga, and anime.

Konami has not commented on any of the reports as of yet, so take everything leaked thus far with a grain of salt.

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In the meantime, modders like Lance McDonald are using video game magic to escape the confines of P.T.’s haunted house and exploring the streets of Silent Hills.

Street Fighter V Coming to Nintendo Switch, EB Games Twitter Leaks

Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is coming to the Nintendo Switch, according to a tweet by the official EB Games Canada Twitter account.

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Nintendo nor Capcom has mentioned any plans for a Street Fighter V port to the Nintendo Switch as of yet, so if this post from EB Games Canada proves true, it’ll mark the first time the game has landed on the console in any form.

According to EB Games Canada, the game should also be available for pre-order now in stores. Last we heard, when Capcom announced Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, it said the game would release on February 14, 2020, and will bring Gill back as a playable fighter.

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Capcom confirmed that Champion Edition will feature 40 characters, 34 stages, more than 200 costumes, and pretty much everything Street Fighter V has released, minus the Fighting Chance and brand collaboration outfits, and Capcom Pro Tour DLC. Anything released between January 10 and February 14 also won’t be in Champion Edition.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a Canadian retailer was responsible for a significant leak. Back in 2018, Walmart Canada was responsible for accidentally leaking the existence of a whole slew of highly anticipated games before E3 2018. You can also read about the most infamous game leaks ever.

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Street Fighter V: Champion Edition will be out on February 14, so happy Valentine’s Day. Watch out for that netcode, though, which has been a sore point of contention for Street Fighter V fans, and something that an independent modder appeared to fix on his own recently.

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Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.