The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Tim Clark

Page 1 of 10

Each week PC Gamer probes the previous seven days to scientifically establish what rocked our world and made us despair for its future. As usual, we begin with the good stuff…

THE HIGHS

Tyler Wilde: It's my birthday as I write this, so that's nice. Or is it? I'm never sure whether or not I'm supposed to enjoy getting older. I did enjoy playing Watch Dogs recently. I'm disappointed by the fidelity-breaking parts of the world (the dumb pedestrians, the lack of consequences for terrorizing Chicago), and by the lack of experimentation in the story missions I played—but where it's open-ended, where I can choose my own plan of attack (or plan of sneaking), and where hacking is a real tool for survival, I'm happy to say that Watch Dogs diverges from GTA and leans in the direction of Far Cry. I'm most surprised that I'm looking forward to the story. I can't tell if Ubisoft wants Aiden Pearce to come off as a badass, or if he's supposed to be the way I see him: a loser who messed up his life and his family by running around in a trench coat acting like a big time tough guy when he'd be better off at home watching Hackers again. I like my goober version of Aiden, so I'm sticking to it.

Wes Fenlon: We're two weeks into our Dark Souls 2 coverage, and I'm still over the moon with the work that modder Durante has done for us. First, he analyzed the Dark Souls 2 PC port . Then he wrote a tweak guide for the average user to make the game look better. And now he's debuted a brand new tool with us that he calls GeDoSaTo that enables downsampling, texture modding, and other graphical enhancements in Dark Souls 2 and other DirectX games. It's still a work-in-progress tool, but I can't wait to start taking 8K screenshots with GeDoSaTo on the Large Pixel Collider . And the fact that he's helping gamers mod Dark Souls 2 the very minute the game launches on PC—that's just too cool. I'm glad we can help spread the word.

Evan Lahti: Hell yes , Rising Storm got a big update . The indie-developed WWII FPS is one of our favorite games over the past few years, but it could certainly benefit from a larger playerbase. It's great to see Tripwire pouring more content into it in addition to making its sibling game Red Orchestra 2 temporarily free earlier this week.

Tim Clark: It's entirely improper for someone of my age to get excited about box art, but Dragon Age: Inquisition is delivering almost Frank Frazetta amounts of epic here . Luckily, we've had plenty more to go on that just the box art this week. Like Chris's huge interview with the game's executive producer, info on the game's digital edition bonus content , and this very saucy looking gameplay trailer . Although it's of course right to remain cautious given that not everyone thought Dragon Age 2 was an unalloyed triumph, but the delay to The Witcher 3, and the fact Bethesda will surely revisit Fallout before doing another Elder Scrolls game, means Inquisition effectively has the high fantasy field to itself.

Andy Kelly: FRACT OSC is a first-person exploration game that sees you wandering around a bizarre, abstract world that shifts and pulses with music as you solve puzzles. It's initially confusing and a bit aimless, but as you feel your way around its surreal, vivid world, it starts making a weird kind of sense. It doesn't hold your hand at all, which demonstrates a trust in the player I wish more developers would have. As you solve puzzles you unlock different parts of a giant step synthesizer. You can create bass lines, pads, and synth leads, tweaking volume, tone, filters, and pretty much everything you'd expect from a VST, but represented in 3D. I know nothing about the developers behind this, but they already have my attention. If you like exploratory games, music, and puzzle-solving, it's pretty much a must play.

Tom Senior: My game library shrank drastically last week thanks to a severely throttled internet connection (more on this later), but Dark Souls somehow worked, even with its cumbersome Games for Windows Live wrapping. I'm glad. My abortive first attempt ended in frustration, and not because of the game's oft-mentioned difficulty. It's easy to play it wrong. The bonfires scattered throughout the world offer comfort and replenish your health flasks, but bring nearby monsters back to life. I would run and re-run an area to amass souls and level up, locking myself into a cycle of boredom. I was trying to game Dark Souls as an RPG, when I should have been mastering Dark Souls as a combat game.

Now, with light armour and a fire-enchanted club I dodge under each enemy's thrusts and swings, and deliver crunchy critical hits to their exposed spines. I'm moving through each area at a satisfying pace, and can finally admire how the world has been intricately knotted together. I've been locked into the game by a scuppered connection, so perhaps this the Stockholm syndrome talking, but now I love the mystery and melancholy vibes of Lordran. I hope Dark Souls 2 can capture that too.

THE LOWS

Andy Kelly: The image of an in-game rendered soldier from a presentation slide at GDC was used this week to run teaser stories about the next Call Of Duty game. Yes, that's right, the next CoD will contain soldiers. I don't have anything against Activision's world-conquering series. I don't play it, but people like it, so whatever. But it says everything about the paucity of the series' ambition that a close-up of the hyper-realistic pores of a face is considered newsworthy.

Before Ghosts came out, they wouldn't shut up about that dog and its fur. Now maybe they'll do a series of elaborate 'making of' documentaries about that guy's pores, and how you can make out individual blackheads if you look really closely at his nose. Call of Duty is formulaic because Activision won't dare mess with the formula. It's the gaming equivalent of a Marvel film. A dumb, flashy distraction. But I really wish they'd make some attempt to innovate beyond frivolous visual details.

Wes Fenlon: I'm afraid that the dream of net neutrality is dead. The Wall Street Journal reported that the FCC soon plans to introduce new regulations that would allow Internet Service Providers to charge different prices for the data they're carrying. This is doomsday scenario I outlined a few months ago when I wrote about how net neutrality affects PC gamers . Companies like Comcast could charge Netflix or Valve more money for a faster connection to their end users, since their services require vast amounts of data. Those kinds of costs will likely end up being passed down to people like us.

And it's not just about the money. If the Internet isn't open and equal, ISPs could charge us more for access to certain sites, or block services entirely to promote their own stuff. Comcast's Video on Demand vs. Netflix, for example. I think something like that happening is less likely, but I'm still worried about it, and unless some good news comes out of the FCC soon, things aren't looking great for the Internet as we know it.

Evan Lahti: CS:GO has been my main game for four months, and it's wonderful. What it's made me unhappy about, though, is how absurdly few shooters we have on PC that feature competitive matchmaking. Across the other genres, StarCraft II, Dota 2, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Smite all offer skill-based matchmaking. Can you name another FPS with a smart matchmaking mode? I love dedicated servers, but CS:GO's five-on-five, structured, carefully-balanced competitive mode is so reliably tough and fair (save for the handful instances where I've been matched with hackers) that it's the only thing I play. It makes me long for the return of arena shooters. I'm hoping something like Extraction will help fill this near-void.

Tyler Wilde: I spent the beginning of the week getting over a flu I picked up at PAX. It was horrific. If you ever go to PAX, douse your entire body in hand sanitizer every two hours. Drink a bit of it, too. I'm also very disappointed, as I touched on in my From The Archives column over the weekend , that I can't play along with the NHL playoffs on my PC. I'm not mad at EA and 2K for focusing their sporting efforts on the consoles—a few years ago, I'd probably have made the same decision—but I do hope someone plugs the gap. On PC, where modding and customization reign, it doesn't even matter to me whether or not sports games are licensed by the NHL, NBA, MLB, or whatever. It would be convenient to have the rosters and stats built in, but if not, I'll figure out how to get 2001–02 Evgeni Nabokov in his number 35 solid black jersey into the game, don't worry about that.

Tim Clark: While I'm delighted with our first guide article for Hearthstone, which details the decks that are dominating the current metagame and explains why they're so effective, I'm also conscious of the fact we've probably just helped unleash even more Zoo Warlocks onto the server. Which, as shown here , is unfortunate. However, next week our expert will be showing you how to build your own killer deck, so perhaps a PC Gamer reader will come up with a perfect countermeasure for all those Zoos. (Other than fire, obviously.) To help the process, we'll also be listing our 40 favourite cards soon. I'd be curious to know which ones you think are must haves in your decks. Hit me up here with suggestions. Job done.

Tom Senior: My internet router has existed in a state of near-death for a week now, allowing only the faintest breath of data to reach Steam's authentication servers. At times like this I'm reminded that my digital library is a transient thing, reliant on systems that may one day fail, or fall to market forces. Will Steam last forever? Gamespy's shutdown has inspired some quick action from 2K , but what will happen when Games for Windows Live meets its maker? Dedicated fans have been known to set up their own servers to save games from the scrapheap, but often it's down to publishers to maintain a game's online infrastructure, and that may not always be in their financial interests. Physical media is hardly infallible—I've lost a few golden oldies to dust and disk scratches—but the death of third-party authentication systems threaten to take relatively recent games out of circulation. I can only hope Dark Souls survives the GfWL cull.

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