The week's highs and lows in PC gaming



Tom Senior: Jar jar binge
Happy Star Wars week everyone! Spoiler sensitivity has reached such heights that steps had to be taken in the UK office to curb Star Wars chatter—loose lips spoil spaceships. The release of The Force Awakens is a good excuse to go back and consume loads of the great (and not-so-great) Star Wars games on PC. We have our favourites, of course, and there are some great Star Wars mods out there. What to choose?

Scandalously, I might end up returning to the Episode I-III era with Republic Commando. This squad shooter is the perfect model of a good Star Wars tie-in—a game that fills in gaps implied by incidental dialogue in the films. It turns the actions of the Republic’s special forces units into a parallel fiction that enriches Star Wars universe. Also, in a post Brothers in Arms/Republic Commando world, there aren’t enough shooters that let you boss your own squad about. Alternatively, I might finally start Knights of the Old Republic 2, finally patched to completion by a devoted community of Star Wars fans. That should tide me over until the surely-inevitable new wave of Star Wars games is announced.

Angus Morrison: Shaman-freude
Some people have had a very bad week in PC gaming, and I find myself taking guilty pleasure in their misery. I’m the sort who watches fail videos, chuckles when he sees toddlers topple over, and spits out a loud ‘HA!’ when a few thousand World of Warcraft accounts get banned for botting. But it gets tastier: not content with six-month suspensions, Blizzard is now confiscating the proceeds of crime, stripping cheaters of ill-gotten gear, gold and honor.

For the second time, Blizzard is onto the popular Warcraft automator HonorBuddy (and they’re knee-deep in legal proceedings with its creator, Bossland). This makes me happy indeed, because though I don’t play much Warcraft these days, I’m aware of the devastating effect widespread botting can have on the playerbase. Joining battlegrounds to find half the team made up of drones is enough to make some people leave and never come back.

So yes, I’m on a justice high. If you really want to bask in others’ pain, head on over to the HonorBuddy forums and check in on the cheaters who are, somehow, perplexed by their predicament.

Nuclear Throne Slide

James Davenport: Radioactive woo
I’ve been eyeballing Nuclear Throne for a while now, but I’m typically averse to Early Access games. It hit 1.0 out of nowhere on December 5th and I figured my Very Professional Opinion on 2015 wouldn’t be complete without giving it a shot. Hoo-boy, am I happy I bit the bullet. And I’ve bit the bullet many times since, because Nuclear Throne is hard! It’s a top down, permadeath shooter where you find bonkers weapons, fight gross enemies, and level up on radiation. I dig it. So did our reviewer.

It’s the kind of game that, despite the shooty context, sends me into a trance where I hardly recognize what I’m doing second-to-second until it’s done. Within a few seconds I’ll down five enemies, roll to dodge a blizzard of bullets, switch weapons and smash a mutated rat with a giant wrench, and then dissolve into a fine red mist after a barrel explosion chain takes me by surprise. Most deaths illicit a ‘God damn’ tinged with more excitement than frustration because I learn something about how I play, how enemies or environmental objects behave, or it just looked cool. I’m looking forward to playing a ton more over the break.

Chris Livingston: Falling Out
There's immense pleasure when a game takes over your life for a while, and yet there's also something great about when it finally begins to loosen its grip. I fell into Fallout 4 pretty completely, and it's been several weeks of enjoyment (along with plenty of complaints). But I think, at least for the time being, I'm just about done. This is good, because I can finally get back to playing other games.

How do I know I'm done? Well, I've got the best power armor in the game, and it's almost fully upgraded. I've got a sniper rifle that sets people on fire and a tommy gun that shoots explosive rounds. As a stealthy character, I've been finding myself sneaking less and less since I'm so durable I don't really need to hide. And the other night I went through an entire enemy outpost without bothering to loot a single item. It's great to finally be powerful and want for nothing, but ultimately I've begun missing the scrappiness of the earliest hours, the danger, the caution, the time when every piece of trash was a veritable treasure. That's all gone, and gone with it is a lot of the fun. Onto something new!

Rocket League Hockey Slide

Tyler Wilde: Hockey league
I am a big time hockey guy. They call me that—Tyler ‘Big Time Hockey Guy’ Wilde—so the release of Rocket League’s Snow Day mode, which replaces the ball with a puck, was a big ‘ol deal to me. I honestly probably won’t play it much, because I care more about honing the skills I’ve already spent 100 hours honing in vanilla Rocket League, but it was really cool of Psyonix to try it. It takes a lot of new thinking. The puck doesn’t get nearly as much air, so whacking it over opponents is trickier, and is usually accomplished by sliding it up and down the walls. I’m terrible at driving up the walls, so it’s giving me a chance to work on that skill.

There are also a lot more quick, short back and forth passes and interceptions, which can make for some fun scrambles, and lots of really awkward goals where the biscuit flips end-over-end. And that’s cool—messy goals are just as much a part of hockey as Mario Lemieux goals—though so far, it doesn’t quite compare to the beautiful dunks you can pull of with a sailing ball. Still, it’s free and different, and it’s hockey, so I had to be there for it.

Phil Savage: Truck yeah!
American Truck Simulator has a release date, which is one of the reasons why I've been involuntarily honking my way through the day. (The other reason is Christmas deadline stress. I am very, very tired.) The follow-up to the brilliant Euro Truck Simulator 2 is just a couple of months away, and I can't wait to swap out Europe's greyer, bleaker regions (for instance, this here UK) for the uniformly sunny California.

Ultimately, the whole of America is planned but, for now, ATS will release with just the one state. I'm interested to see how it'll develop, and how it will advance from the still expanding ETS2. But more than anything, I'm simply looking forward to getting behind the wheel for the next instalment in one the most strangely compelling series currently available on PC.

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