The week's highs and lows in PC Gaming

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Every week, the PC Gamer team pick their most and least favourite happenings from the last seven days. Here you'll find the week's soaring highs and stagnant lows, picked from the news, the games we've played, the culture at large. The only thing that's guaranteed is there'll be no neutral opinions.

On this page, you'll find a profusion of positivity; on the next, a glut of gloom.

THE HIGHS

 
Samuel Roberts: I loved what I played of Alien Isolation this week. It's pretty cool that a game experimenting with emergent AI just happens to be based on a sci-fi franchise that has a recent spotty history when it comes to...well, look, the easiest way of putting this is, Colonial Marines was a pile of arse. This is so far from any other Alien game stylistically and benefits from Creative Assembly's laser focus on the values of the original Alien. Tom's experiences contrasted nicely with my own, so I'm now fairly confident in Isolation's potential replay value based on what I've seen so far.

Evan Lahti: Guys, Clockwork Empires could be special. I posted my hands-on with the indie, Dwarf Fortress-inspired, Lovecraftian colony-builder earlier this week, and as the rest of the press have begun to see the game at GDC they've been echoing our praise and interest. That includes our pals at RPS, who described it as "really exciting stuff."

We've seen a surge in popularity in games that generate emergent, personal stories in the past few years, and I have a feeling that Clockwork is going to be the next big one on that list. Gaslamp Games' eccentricity is infectious whenever I talk to them, and it's wonderful to see how that's extending to the design of their game--you can build barber shops on the frontier (and barbers operate as low-level doctors when none are available, apparently), and phrenologist will be a middle-class occupation for your colonists that's used to identify their character traits. Gaslamp's willingness to be themselves--that is, weird--is encouraging.

Tim Clark: An easy one for me: Sam and I getting to play Hyper Light Drifter for the first time. Most of the session was spent accusing each other of sausage-thumbed incompetence as our survival runs in the horde mode were cut short by sudden death, but when it came to the end of the hands-on it was a genuine wrench to hand the controllers back. Although developer Heart Machine isn't showing Hyper Light Drifter's main RPG elements yet, spending time with the gloriously whipcrack combat system, which is a frantic mess of slash 'n' dash moves fleshed out with a diverse suite of secondary abilities, has left me feeling entirely confident about the feel of the final game. And given its already startlingly cool looks, the hype for Hyper Light Drifter is only set to grow.

Tyler Wilde: That's cool, you all sat in rooms looking at screens with things happening on them. I mean, that's PC gaming for the most part. Totally understandable that you would do that, but here's a story from my week: I'm sitting in a room—it's clean, nicely decorated. Someone's apartment, maybe. I turn my head and see another player sitting nearby. He turns his head toward me—he's looking at me, right now, through his own Oculus Rift. What do I look like? It occurs to me that I don't know. I look down and my virtual chest shifts slightly. I seem to be wearing a hoodie like his. I see my hands, gripping a controller and frighteningly paralyzed. But what if I weren't paralyzed? What if I could get up and walk over to the strange, silent man sitting next to me? What if his mouth opened and he spoke? Later in the day, would this feel like any other memory of a place I'd been and a person I met?

I'm actually starting to worry about virtual reality, guys—not that it won't be good, but that it will be too good. The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 isn't there yet, but it's a lot better than DK1, and the consumer version is supposed to be another leap. And then there's five years from now, and 10 years from now. Are we heading toward the thing sci-fi writers have been warning us about all this time? Maybe. And maybe if we are, I want it to happen anyway. Long live the new flesh.

Chris Thursten: Given that I've been sat in a big empty office with Phil while the rest of you have adventures at GDC, the highlight of my week has been the release of Valve's Dota 2 documentary, Free To Play. I'd seen it a few times before - I watched an early cut at Valve in May last year, then saw the near-final thing at The International in August - but watching the community get to experience it has been a lot of fun. It's an accomplished exploration of what makes competitive gaming so exciting, and its positivity about the scene has brought about a great sense of positivity within the scene, which makes for a nice change of pace. I wrote about it in more detail as part of this week's Three Lane Highway column. I'd love to see more developers take their communities seriously in the way that Valve evidently do.

Phil Savage: It's been a week of cool tech, exciting previews, and being sat in a big empty office with Chris. And yet, the thing that excited me the most? New payment models for game engines. This could be a sign that I need to take a long, hard look at how I get my thrills, but let me explain what I hope Epic and Crytek's subscription models will mean. Unity has revolutionised the indie industry, partly because of its (relative) ease-of-use for those starting out in 3D development. But it's also the de-facto choice for AAA veterans moving to the indie space. Now, as increasingly more of these smaller studios appear, they'll have the option of an affordable version of tools they're already familiar with. Hopefully it's another step towards a future in which lines between indie and AAA are increasingly blurred, and a studio's budget is no longer it's defining characteristic.