The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

psychonauts 2


Tom Senior: Dream team
We’re a two million dollars of generosity away from a sequel to the charming, colourful and extremely funny Psychonauts. The original was never an outstanding platform game, but the levels—each set inside a different mental realm—were imaginative and wonderfully varied. Some, like the Meat Circus, provided the game’s most frustrating moments, but even at its lowest points Psychonauts finds a way to surprise you with a sharp quip or a transition into a bonkers new world.

I remember it as one remembers a good children’s book, but I think there’s more to Psychonauts than nostalgia. There’s genuine warmth to the friendships that Raz forms at psychic camp—a bright, summery Hogwarts for insanely powerful toddlers. And it’s bursting with gags and characterful little moments. It’s great to hear that many of the game’s developers will return to work on the sequel, including co-writer Erik Wolpaw. I really hope the crowdfunding attempt succeeds.

Angus Morrison: Human resource machine
On Monday I had my hair cut for the first time in two months and bought a new pair of jeans. I was all for making a good impression, see, because somehow I’ve been made PC Gamer’s new staff writer—I’d have buffed my shoes if they weren’t the regulation Converses. I even managed to turn up in the same jumper as Chris, although I’m not sure whether that’s endeared me or made him wary of a coup.

Four days later, I have a hangover, look half hollowed, and I’ve learned that offering tea to the PCG team is met with the deepest fear and suspicion. Honestly, I didn’t think I was hired for anything grander (though I can understand Chris keeping me away from food prep).

All in all, however, I’m calling it a personal PC gaming high, as the leaning tower of PCG back issues in my lounge will attest to. After six months spent freelancing from the spare bedroom, it’s good to be back around people who agree that Dishonored is fantastic, Fallout 4 isn’t all that good an RPG, and call me out for foolhardy, ill-informed comments like “Stargate SG1 is the best sci-fi ever made”. For some reason I’ve been offered a shot at plying you people with news and Tweets, so let’s make the most of it before Samuel fires me on grounds of taste.

Fallout 4 Chris Livingston Synth Component Settler Slide

Chris Livingston: Settlers of Kablam
After a couple experimental characters (one built from charisma and luck, another who never left Sanctuary), I'm finally playing Fallout 4 properly. I spend my time exploring, completing quests that seem interesting, and building settlements. My main settlement is at Starlight Drive-In, and I've got fifteen residents there. While things are going well, one settler in particular was getting on my nerves. When I'd return after a long night killing mutants and monsters, I'd always find her sleeping in my bed despite there being plenty of extra bunks available. During the day she'd hang around my workshop, suspiciously close to my patchwork yet prized collection of power armor. When I'd assign her to a job, she'd never do it. Ever. It was bugging me. She had to go.

I wasn't sure what the etiquette was when it came to killing a settler—would the others revolt against me if I just shot her? So, when I saw her standing along in the middle of the parking lot one day, I dropped a bottlecap mine at her feet, climbed to the top of the drive-in screen, scoped in with my sniper rifle, and shot the mine. She died in a shower of caps, and perhaps since I didn't technically shoot her none of my other residents seemed to mind. What's more, when looting her corpse, I found it contained a synth component. A-ha! Retroactively, I felt completely justified in wasting her since she was a no-good android sent to infiltrate my camp.

Thing is, there are 14 other settlers living here, and a total of 43 among my other bases. Confirmation that I'd found an interloper hasn't made me feel better, just more paranoid that there may be others. Paranoia in games is fun, though, and it gives me a whole new quest: root out the spies. Better build some more bottlecap mines.

Tim Clark: The wind in the Witcher’s willows
Every year I like to save one of the biggest games to play over the Christmas period (which, like the John Lewis marketing department, I have already decreed is now underway). This year I chose The Witcher 3, which originally arrived at a time when I couldn’t give Geralt the full attention he deserves. My overdue hot take: It’s pretty good! The thing I like best isn’t the none-more-grey moral ambiguity, or the bleak sense of humour shot through it. No, what I like most are the trees. Specifically how they bend like an archer’s bow in the the seemingly never less than galeforce wind.

Wind is an underutilised weather effect in games, I guess because, audio cues and foliage aside, it’s sort of hard to show effectively. But the near constant storminess of The Witcher III makes me feel like I’m stomping around in a fantasy movie as made by classic era Hammer studios. Which, again, is my way of saying I’m liking it alot so far.

Telltale Batman Slide

Samuel Roberts: Robin will remember that
What an odd week for Batman-related media. Last weekend I read a good Batman comic by Frank Miller for the first time in over a decade. Then on Wednesday, Warner released a trailer for Batman Vs Superman where Batfleck alternates between grimdark and goofing off with quips as well as loads of guns (I’ve since downgraded my opinion of it from ‘daft’ to ‘absolute garbage’). Then yesterday at The Game Awards, Telltale announced it’s making an episodic Batman series in 2016.

I’ve marked this as my high of the week because I think it’s a cool idea in some ways, but admittedly I have some reservations. Dampening the appeal of Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among us for me was that they had to be wedged around the pre-existing continuity of the more important source material. So, the stories end up being a bit inconsequential (that’s why The Walking Dead, with its entirely original cast, worked so well). In Batman’s case, I hope they go all out, and that the story choices focus more on detective work rather than choosing to save this person or not. Batman pretty much saves everyone, after all, Jason Todd and Rachel Dawes aside. I also hope they manage to improve the action in this series. After all, we have a Batman series with world-class combat and excellent Dark Knight stories buried within rich open worlds.

If I could, I’d make my low of the week having to endure every tired variant of ‘Joker will remember this ROFL’ on the social medias after the announcement. Please make it stop, please.

James Davenport: Ha ha heist
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is out now, and for free, on Steam. It's the first game from Crows Crows Crows, a new studio directed by William Pugh, one of the co-creators of The Stanley Parable. A self-professed short game, DLTTATTCE:AWH is around 15 to 20 minutes long (which is a trend I love), and if it was hard to gather from the loaded title, the narrative concerns a heist—sort of.

As is the trend with anyone associated with The Stanley Parable, there's more to this game than initially apparent, and that's where most of the charm lives. Things you can expect: goofs, spoofs, laughs, a disembodied narration (by Simon Amstell, who is a famous person, I think?), and first-person walking. I loved it. DLTTATTCE:AWH manages to be smart in meta-gamey ways without feeling like someone's elbowing you in the ribs whispering, 'Get it? Do you get it?' The game's first priority is to be funny (and pretty), so my attachment to the affable narration and tongue-in-cheek concept kept me focused enough to pick up on the game's clever insights.

For zero monies and 15 minutes of time, it's an easy recommendation to make.

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