The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Xcom 2


Tom Senior: XCOM exposed
Firaxis is giving the community the keys to the tool shed, and I can’t wait to see what they build. With access to XCOM 2’s assets, scripting language and level editing tools modders can create new campaigns and alter the rules of the game. Fans made the Long War mod with nothing, imagine what they’ll do with the programs that Firaxis used to build the game.

I’ve been thinking about Valve’s attempt to launch a mod store around Skyrim recently. It was the wrong game for it, but I like the idea that the creators of Skywind and Enderal could earn a crust for their tremendous efforts. It’s common to see mod teams drift apart as life intervenes, but a monetary incentive might help creators stick to projects and finish them, which would mean more mods for the rest of us.

Players who fall in love with a game tend to play it faster than the official devs can keep creating new updates for it. What if crowd support enabled modders to keep a game alive between expansions? The prospect of a cut might encourage developers to create better tools for modders. It needn’t even be a shop. Team Fortress 2 lets you buy items to ‘tip’ mappers.

Anyway, there’s no sign that XCOM 2 will have anything like that, but it’s interesting to think about what modding would look like if it was more than a hobbyist’s pursuit.

Chris Thursten: Kings in the North
Alliance are back! Sort of. I'll admit to having been a fan of Dota 2's International 2013 champions for a couple of years. I like their attitude and their approach to the game. People complain about the passivity of 'rat Dota', but I can't think of another team that produces strange, dramatic, exciting matches with this frequency.

Their amazing comeback against Ninjas in Pyjamas earlier in the week is one of those "this is why we watch Dota" moments. What Alliance managed to do was extremely, historically unlikely, and it took a mix of chance and luck and good judgement and skill. There's a brutal mathematics to Dota 2 that they have a weird habit of overturning when they are at their best.

That said, it's not like they're on a tear. They had to fight up through the lower bracket of the Frankfurt Major European Qualifiers. I'm excited how they do at the main event, but this is nothing like their unbroken streak in 2013 and I wonder if there'll ever be a patch that suits them as well as 6.78 did. Nonetheless: more ludicrous sixty-minute upsets, please.

Prison Architect Slide

Chris Livingston: Shawshanked
An easy high for me this week: playing and reviewing Prison Architect. I was tempted a number of times to buy it while it was in Early Access, but I'm glad I waited for it to be complete (save for an occasional bug). It's really gotten under my skin in the best of ways. When I woke up this morning my first thought was "You know, I could increase the size of the canteen by moving the infirmary and visitor's center further back toward the administration buildings, and that way my new cell block could use it without me having to build a new canteen and kitchen by purchasing more land."

It's also been a learning experience. Like I mention in the review, there's a lot that goes unexplained in the tutorial campaign, but it can sometimes be fun figuring things out yourself. In one prison, I wound up having an inmate escape every so often, but never found a tunnel or any other breach, which was confusing. I also noticed that when I recruited an informant, they would later go missing (I assumed it was via parole, or perhaps murder). I eventually discovered what was happening. When you call in an informant, a guard escorts him to the security room to question him. I often watched this happen, and had just assumed the guard also escorts them back to their cells when they're done. Nope! My guard was just opening the staff door and trusting the informant to find his way back. Thing was, I'd put my security room, along with my armory, outside the wall, figuring no prisoner would ever be able to breach it that way. So, my informants were simply walking straight off the property after questioning. Duh!

James Davenport: Compact Discoveries
We’re moving offices here in San Francisco, which means the PC Gamer crew has quite a bit of cleaning to do. After digging through a bunch of old CDs, I stumbled upon some real deal gems. Highlights among them: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (sealed!) and No One Lives Forever 2. There were a boatload more games that I kept simply because they look horrible and might be worthy of some kind of future weekly feature or stream. Big Mutha Truckers, anyone?

But browsing all those CDs took me back my memories as a kid wandering the Butte, Montana WalMart game aisles. I had no idea what might work on my PC, a Compaq hand-me-down my dad probably snagged from work. So many great mistakes were made! Most decisions hinged specifically on what the cover art did for youthful me. I bought Glover, Black and White, THPS2, Half-Life, an old Beast Wars game that I’d love to play again, every Humongous game, and more all on a whim. I miss the feeling wandering shelves of games used to give me, the mystery behind each shitty jewel case. It’s hard to replicate. Maybe I’ll grab a game on Steam without reading anything about it. Sigh.

There’s a bit of melancholy coloring my High this week, but it’s a sweet nostalgia. I’m grateful for the chance to fondly remember something so mundane. I don’t see many WalMarts since the move to San Francisco, but anytime there’s one around, I’ll still check out the PC games.

Overwatch Slide

Tom Marks: Ready to Overwatch
I found myself in Blizzard’s offices on Tuesday playing Overwatch, its upcoming FPS, and now I can’t wait to play more—it’s a huge amount of fun. When the game was first revealed, a lot of people (myself included) said that it looked like Blizzard’s version of Team Fortress 2. But after playing it for three hours, I was impressed by how misleading that description actually is. Sure, you can draw parallels, but they feel fundamentally different. I love the unique guns Overwatch introduces and it’s focus on working as a unit with the five other people on your team. It’s strange that Blizzard is waiting so long to announce a payment model for the game, and I hope whatever they land on won’t turn people off from at least trying it.

Samuel Roberts: Bundle Commando
Humble Bundle has been particularly strong of late—giving away Xenonauts in the last Indie Bundle was pretty awesome (I already had it, so have mine: 32ZWI-BM2N0-93GVG), and this week’s Capcom bundle is excellent, particularly if you go for the higher tiers. I haven’t played Strider, Bionic Commando isn’t really my sort of thing and Lost Planet 3 was incredibly boring as I recall, but pay over the average and the games start getting excellent.

While Resi 5 disappointingly lacks splitscreen (and had a popular splitscreen mod nixed in its crossover from GFWL to Steam), it looks great on PC and its Mercenaries mode is perhaps better than the main story (which I feel was a little underrated at the time anyway). Not a lot of people were keen on Resi 5’s heavy action focus in the wake of Resi 4’s more deft balance of shooting and survival horror, but I think both have a place, and 5’s ludicrous exchanges between gigantic muscle potato Chris Redfield and British-now-because-that’s-more-evil antagonist Albert Wesker are some of my favourite silly cutscenes ever.

You’ve also got the excellent DmC: Devil May Cry by Ninja Theory in there, which was initially shouted down by idiots on the internet because Dante had a different haircut, but it was well-received by us. It also didn’t sell well enough to garner a sequel, which is criminal. Still, time has revealed that DmC is the real deal, and it too runs fantastically on PC.

Then you’ve got Resident Evil Revelations, which I thought was a bit too budget-feeling since it began life on 3DS and didn’t look amazing when blown up on the big screen, but is still worth a go. For people really looking to get their Resi on, the recently-released DLC for Resi 5 (originally released on console years ago) is in the $15 tier. That features an excellent chapter called Lost In Nightmares, set in a mansion occupied by antagonist Albert Wesker, and is closer in style to old Resi than the main game.

In fact, if Resi 6 had built a game with 5’s interaction but in the style of Lost In Nightmares, I bet it wouldn’t have been heckled into the bin by critics, leaving people like me defending its Mercenaries mode (which really is good—I expect Resi 6 will be added to the bundle later). I recommend the above average tier for most players, then, but the extra Resi 5 DLC is a nice bonus for those happy to spend more.

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