The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Dirty Bomb


Evan Lahti: Gettin’ Dirty
This week I finally jumped into Dirty Bomb (out of a vague feeling of guilt and obligation) and was pleasantly surprised by its pace and style of movement. Looking forward to digging in more this weekend and writing a longer thing on it.

Andy Kelly: Tunnel of love
I played Soma this week, the new game from the creators of Amnesia. You can read my thoughts here. Summary: It's really good, and I can't wait to play the finished thing, which is out very soon. One of the reasons I like it is that it features some really good sci-fi corridors. I love a good sci-fi corridor, and there have been some great ones in games lately: especially the wonderful Alien: Isolation, which I'm in the midst of replaying.

There's something evocative about a metal space-tunnel, and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I grew up fascinated by films like Alien, Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've always liked the contrast of space, which is this vast, unfathomable thing, and the tight, confined designs of sci-fi spaceships. It's also a brilliant place to set a horror game, because it's so damn claustrophobic. So while I'm excited about Soma's mad story about robots who think they're human, it's the sci-fi corridors that I'm really looking forward to.

Hearthstone players Slide

Tim Clark: Resistance is not futile
My pick will come as no surprise this week (or, uh, arguably any week): It’s Hearthstone! But this time, it’s definitely justified, because on Wednesday we got the first details of The Grand Tournament, a 130+ card expansion arriving next month. There are big changes here—being able to interact with and alter your hero power is huge. Power creep has meant that using your hero power was often tantamount to a disastrous loss of tempo, but with the new set you’ll be able to access beefier versions, and derive additional benefits thanks to the new Inspire mechanic. Check out our gallery of the cards spoiled so far here.

On a personal note, it was an absolute pleasure to mingle with Hearthstone pros and streamers before the event at The Foundry in San Francisco. I didn’t play any Hearthstone, but I did get to play a round of a board game called The Resistance with Trump, Amaz, Backspace and Firebat. I’ll spare you who called who a dummy after one mission’s verdicts were revealed, but the game is a ton of fun, even if my slim grasp of the rules probably cost the good guys the win. (Sorry, Trump.) Maybe we should add it to our list of the best board games for PC Gamers.

Phil Savage: Stranger and stranger
The fourth and penultimate part of Life Is Strange is out next week, and, on reflection, I don't think I've ever been this excited for the continuation of an episodic series. Life Is Strange isn't short on problems—just take the awful bottle collecting sequence from episode two—but around these missteps is one of the most interesting adventures I've played in some time. There's a vulnerability and awkwardness to the characters that proves to be disarmingly likeable, and the emotional range of the story feels more human and believable than, say, the concentrated misery of The Walking Dead.

Best of all is that, with only two episodes left, I have no idea how it will all wrap up. Last episode's cliffhanger was a potentially massive shift in the story, and I'm still uncertain how (or if) it will be resolved. That's a great place for an ongoing story to be in, and I can't wait to see what's next.

Fallout 3 Train head hat Slide

Tom Senior: Development sorcery
I’ve always enjoyed messing around with level editors like Hammer and UnrealEd. They give you a good look at the guts of a game.They can operate in ways that seem counter-intuitive to a player. You might assume that Team Fortress 2 measures player distance from the mine cart and sets the cart moving if players come too close. Actually, there’s a just big invisible box around the object that triggers when players break its boundary. You see a bomb cart on rails, but in game logic terms the rails matter less than the a separate thread of nav point the cart moves between. This week we learned the bizarre mechanism that powers Fallout 3’s trains, and immediately went hunting for more. It turns out Breen’s performances on Half-Life 2’s screens are broadcast live from a tiny inaccessible studio. If you replace him with the Scout, that’s what you’ll see on the screens throughout Half-Life 2. Games are wonderfully strange.

James Davenport: Rise of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC
Though we knew Rise of the Tomb Raider wasn’t an Xbox One ‘exclusive’ despite the confident and liberal use of the term, we didn’t know when it was coming to PC. “Early 2016” is the new date, not too long after the Xbox One release. PS4 owners get the shortest end of the stick, having to wait until “Holiday 2016” to raid tombs again.

As a big fan of the Tomb Raider reboot, I’m super jazzed to see where the sequel takes us, especially in terms of how hard it pushes PC hardware. The last game looked pretty darn nice, so I’m hoping we don’t get a rushed port in lieu of a wide selection of graphical options. Imagine hair TressFX 2.0, in which Lara’s hair doesn’t only bounce around, but you can style it, comb it, take it to the barber, name it, feed it, watch it grow into a tiny hair person with a mind and hair all its own.

Yeah, 2016 should be a good year.

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