Tim Clark: Criminally good
The lack of good police procedural games continues to baffle me, when you consider how popular the genre is in the rest of pop culture. I’m certain that whoever gets the detect-’em-up right will blow open the doors to a sizeable goldmine. The reason that hasn’t happened so far is probably to do with the difficulty of making the deductive process actually engaging, rather than an onerous admin simulator. Her Story, the rapturously-reviewed indie murder mystery I played this week, manages just that, and whilst it might not be the game to utlimately get the goldmine, it deserves to do very well indeed.
No doubt the usual blowhards will try to claim that it isn’t a game at all, but to them I say I had more fun with it than anything else I’ve played this year. Certainly no other game has stuck around so determinedly, it’s revelations and inconsistencies rolling around in my head. I played it sat with my other half, both of us making notes as we theory crafted motives, and it got me to think what are the best games played as a couple? Not romantic necessarily, but stuff that just works best experienced as a twosome. Tell me in the comments.
Tom Sykes: The Division’s companion app is KIA
Ubi's apocalyptic MMORPG has been delayed a couple of times since it was announced two years ago, and might actually emerge a better game for it. Not just because it gives the devs more time to polish it before release, but because it will emerge the other side of The Great Ubisoft Drubbing of 2014, in which their fondness for companion apps, microtransactions, and not finishing their games reached boiling point with the catastrophic Assassin’s Creed Unity launch. Announced back in 2013, The Division was of course going to come with its own companion app—but Ubi has revealed that it's now been ditched. (They've also confirmed that there won't be one for this year's Assassin's Creed Syndicate either.)
Had The Division come out when it was originally supposed to, perhaps it would have been riddled with insidious nonsense in the same way that Unity was at launch—but I like to think Ubisoft are learning from that particular mistake. (No gimmicky companion apps is certainly an encouraging sign.) In fact, part of me hopes The Division will be delayed even further, to a time when Ubisoft has finally given up on Uplay, towers and samey open worlds. A man can dream. A man can dream.
Tom Marks: I would have gotten away with if it weren’t for you meddling kids
Sam laments the debacle that is Batman: Arkham Knight’s PC launch in the lows of the week on the next page, but the actions Rocksteady and Warner Bros have been forced to take are actually my high. I’m not happy the PC version was neglected, and I’m definitely not happy that PC gamers were essentially told they didn’t matter by the quality of the port. What I am happy about is that they didn’t get away with it.
As Chris Thursten mentioned in his breakdown of the situation, a game of this size being pulled from sale is unprecedented, which means something has changed. Arkham Knight marks the biggest launch of a broken game since Steam updated its return policy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that had a large impact on WB’s decision. If that policy means that large developers and publishers are going to finally held accountable for delivering terrible ports, then I’m overjoyed.
We should all be angry about Arkham Knight on PC. It was unacceptable. But we should also be excited that, for the first time possibly ever, the offending game didn’t get away with a half-hearted: “Sorry, we’ll patch it later.”
Phil Savage: Taking it back
A lot was made about the potential abuse of Steam's refund system, especially with regards to indie games that can be completed before the two hour cut-off point. Whatever problems the system may have, this week we saw why it's ultimately a force for good. Without easy and guaranteed access to refunds, I doubt the Batman debacle would have played out the way it did—Warner Bros. removing the game from sale in an effort to come back with a better version.
Arkham Knight's release is a disaster, and, not long ago, it's one that people who had bought the game would have been stuck with. Now they aren't, and that fact will hopefully force publishers to sit up and take note of the quality of their ports. I shouldn't have to praise Valve for finally implementing basic consumer protection, but at least, now that they have, the benefits are clear to see.
Evan Lahti: Beast mode
One of the great myths about writing-about-gamesology is that we sit around in multicolored ball pits playing stuff all day, only occasionally descending from our Mountain Dew waterslides to assign a number to the newest Total Duty: Honor of War. In reality, we don’t play games nearly enough as a group, but we did carve out a few hours for that this week.
Some great stuff has come along since the last time we traded our various chairs for a couch to look at the best local multiplayer games on PC: Duck Game, Knight Squad, Regular Human Basketball, and Gang Beasts, which I’d been wanting to play for months. We managed to shove seven people into Boneloaf’s Play-Doh-man brawler, and it was raucous, ludicrous fun. I played plenty of wrestling games growing up on other platforms, but I always did so begrudgingly, at my friends’ houses, frustrated by the button-mashing and weirdly technical gameplay. Gang Beasts just softens and streamlines everything I didn’t like about conventional wrestling games growing up—even failing miserably is fun because it creates physical comedy for the rest of the group. Here’s my favorite moment from our couch gamesapalooza.
Samuel Roberts: Free weekends FTW
This weekend, Creative Assembly is opening up a big slice of its back catalogue of Total War games for a free weekend, as well as discounting a load of its most recent titles like Attila and Rome 2. It’s the perfect way to gear people up to speed for Total War: Warhammer who might otherwise not be familiar with CA’s unique mixture of turn-based and real-time strategy, but are now jonesing to send orcs to fight men on horseback.