The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

XCOM 2 new tom screen 09

The Highs

Tom Senior: Welcome back, Commander
I snuck into the Highs and Lows article first this week, which means I get to write about how good XCOM 2 is before anyone else has the chance. Aha! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s reactions when they run into some of the cruelest aliens and unlock the highest armour tier, which looks sweet. All over Twitter today I’ve seen people filling out their campaign with custom soldiers named after pals. The mod scene will kick into gear in no time.

Sometimes a game launch births a creative scene. I think people will be creating and sharing around XCOM 2 for a long time, and I think it has the potential to reach beyond the usual audience for strategy games. It’s exciting for us, too, not just as players, but because we get to cover it for years and feature the coolest stuff you’re making. The Witness, Homeworld, Rise of the Tomb Raider, XCOM 2—What a great start to 2016.

Angus Morrison: Remembering the Second World War
It’s easy to clamour for the return of World War 2 shooters—it’s been fashionable for a while now—but it’s harder to do anything about it. This week, two unlikely teams have bypassed Dice and Treyarch and taken matters into their own hands, proving that not only the demand but the drive is there to reimagine WW2.

Day of Infamy, a total conversion mod for New World’s Insurgency, is being built with the plucky community spirit we like to imagine the Allies carried with them across the battlefields. New World did the groundwork and has now made Day of Infamy compatible with Insurgency’s live build. Now the community are pitching in to support the war effort, supplying maps, models and textures in service to a superb free offering.

Battalion 1944 is still more ambitious—a game in its own right under development be a small team from Derby, UK. They espoused a heartfelt vision of simpler times when shooters were rugged and skill-based, and the populace responded with £100,000 in Kickstarter cash in three days. Get this ridiculous jetpack off me and pass my M1 Garand.

Skyrim Mod Slide

Chris Livingston: Sky’s the limit
I spent some time updating our list of the best Skyrim mods this week. A lot of time because there are lot of mods. Nexus Mods can be a rabbit hole like TV Tropes or Wikipedia—you can lose days in there just following links. You’ll check out one mod, and the modder will suggest that their mod goes really well with several others. So you’ll check out those others, and they’ll suggest their own lists of complimentary mods. It’s hard to assemble a best-of list when the list refuses to stop growing.

At one point, when I had roughly 25 tabs open, I just kinda got goosebumps. Modders are amazing. All of this work, this passion, this dedication and creativity and know-how… it’s overwhelming. More than anything else, modders are what makes PC gaming such a rich, exciting, ever-changing experience. Thank you, sincerely, each and every one of you.

Tyler Wilde: Suburban dread
I moved in with my mom recently, where I'm going to stay temporarily before I take a one-way trip to Maryland, which I assume is just a mound of snow with a big monument sticking out the top. That's a worry for later. For now, it's the quiet that's getting to me. I've lived in San Francisco for the past seven years, and off and on before that, and I'm used to a certain amount of noise: drunk people yelling at 3 am, cars honking, sirens. I stopped noticing it after a while but its absence is all I hear out in the suburbs. I'm just getting started at 11 pm, but here it's like everyone's shut themselves into coffins—it's dead.

I'm starting to like it, though. I forgot how cool and creepy it is to be out at night among cul-de-sacs and strip malls. It's not silent, the sounds are just droning and more distant: transformers vibrating, street lamps whining, the woosh of trucks on the freeway, echoes of a dog barking somewhere. It's really got me in the mood for some creeps, so I've started replaying Lone Survivor, a great little horror game by Jasper Byrne that tests your grasp on reality in a monster infested apartment complex. If there were more Silent Hill games on PC I'd be set, but sadly they haven’t gotten the Resident Evil treatment, so if you can think of any games that capture a similar sort of empty suburban dread, let me know. I want to sit out on the dark porch with my laptop and a beer to set up some cool nightmares for myself.

American Truck Simulator Slide

Phil Savage: The long haul
My internet is bad, so, while I waited for XCOM 2 to download, I decided to kill time with American Truck Simulator. ETS2 is great, but I was worried that the unyielding deserts of Nevada would prove less interesting than Europe's more varied locales. Not so. Dusty open roads are the perfect setting for a long haul drive, and made better through ATS's inclusion of suitably American radio stations.

It's hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere. It's particularly noticeable at night. Every inch of ETS2's Europe feels developed and maintained, so that you're always aware of being trapped in the sprawling artifice of roads and infrastructure. ATS's Nevada feels wilder, and more barren. There's a sense of isolation that feels new and welcome. I'm not sure for how long the currently included two states will hold my interest before repetition sets in, but for now I'm content to cruise across the desert—delivering my goods to wherever they might be needed.

Evan Lahti: PC Gamer II: Origins
Although I couldn’t help but write something about CS:GO last Saturday, this week was my first official week back at PC Gamer after three months spent trying something else. I feel really lucky to be able to keep working somewhere this meaningful and fun; being away reinforced how rare it is to have a job that encourages and pushes you to explore what you’re passionate about.

It’s a privilege to do that, and to be heard. It’s a privilege to walk up to anyone you want at an event like PAX and ask them a question just because you’re holding a microphone. It’s a privilege to solve tough problems (like how to put on an event for PC gaming at E3, as we did last year) with people who care about them as much as you do. Onward!

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