This week's highs and lows in PC Gaming


The Highs

Phil Savage: Sunny Sapienza

I was impressed by Hitman's first episode. The Paris Showcase was initially tricky—featuring more persistent, intricate security than perhaps any previous Hitman game. But once you'd learned its tricks, it became an interesting space to subvert. And IO squeezed plenty of life out of that mansion, with a good selection of difficult Escalation Contracts. Still, it's been over a month. I'm ready for something new.

The good news is that happens next week. Sapienza is Hitman's second episode, and it's… well, I don't know. Beyond the fact it's set somewhere sunny, I can't tell you anything about the place. There's a trailer here, but I haven't watched it. Unlike the first episode, where I saw multiple Opportunity solutions before release, here I've avoided all information. I can't wait to experience it all for the first time.

Wes Fenlon: Important pub journalism

I’ll admit it: I’m no pub expert. If a place serves me beer, I’ll probably like it okay. If you asked me whether I was in a pub, a bar, a tavern, or an ale house, I’d get pretty hot under the collar because I have no idea. This is why I’m very glad we have pub experts like Phil Savage to weigh in on the quality and accuracy of pubs in games. In this case, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’s pub. It’s a hard but fair review, and I came out of it knowing more about pubs than I did before. I’m still clueless when it comes to Cumbrian fishing bylaws, though.

Dark Souls 3 Slide

James Davenport: Reviewed and renewed

Phew. The last two months have been all about The Division and Dark Souls 3. I reviewed both, and because we like to surround big game releases with plenty of ancillary content, I lived and breathed those games for the majority of that time. Stardew Valley descended in my ‘Recent’ Steam sorting list a little more every day, and with it, my heart. Well, not exactly. I dug The Division even if it has some major issues to work through, and Dark Souls 3 might be one of my favorite games ever, but playing for work and playing for leisure are two distant states of mind.

But for now, I don’t have any big reviews on the docket, so I can play whatever I like (don’t tell Tyler). Here’s what I’ve been dabbling in without committing: Hyper Light Drifter, Stardew Valley, Enter the Gungeon, Quantum Break, Ice Lakes (for some terrible reason), Overland (early access), and Stephen’s Sausage Roll. They’re all pretty great games in their own way, but now I’m having a hard time choosing one to stick with. Seriously, there’s never been a better time to play games. It’s impossible to keep up.

Jarred Walton: Xpoint marks the spot

While graphics is arguably the sexiest aspect of modern PCs, the technology powering our storage devices can be equally impressive. Intel announced their 3D XPoint Technology last year, which uses a new form of storage (“not transistors,” apparently a variant of phase change memory) to pack more data into a smaller area, with greatly improved endurance and performance. At IDF 2016 in Shenzhen, Intel demonstrated their Optane SSD pushing over 2GB/s when transferring data from an external drive.

That might not seem any faster than other NVMe drives (it’s not), but there’s a good chance the external Optane drive is running into bottlenecks imposed by the Thunderbolt 3 interface. We’re eager to get our hands on actual hardware for extended testing, as previously Intel showed a massive jump in random I/O performance. The good news is that Intel is still on track to release XPoint SSDs in both consumer and enterprise devices this year (Q4 to be precise). We expect prices to start high, but in time we may see similar phase change memory solutions replace the current NAND and 3D NAND offerings.

Csgo Slide

Evan Lahti: Scourge of smurfs

As previously documented, ‘smurfs’ in multiplayer games are scum. Shirking your own skill by playing on an alternate, lower-ranked account in a competitive game like CS:GO is selfish, cowardly and shows a total lack of respect for other people’s time and fun. There isn’t a single, silver-bullet solution to quashing alt accounts, hackers, and the various ne’er-do-wells you’ll find in the ranked matchmaking mode of a popular competitive game like CS:GO. But it was good to see Valve take another step toward improving the experience for legitimate players this week as it rolled out a beta version of what it’s calling “Prime Account Matchmaking,” a feature that matches you to players who have linked their CS:GO account to a phone number.

The intention is that anyone with multiple accounts will only be able to tie a single account to their phone, which in time, Valve hopes, will create a separate population of verified ‘Prime’ players who only play with one another. It’s not a foolproof system, but adding another asshole filter can’t hurt. Hopefully the beta will go smoothly and this will become a formal feature in Steam’s second-biggest game in short order.

Angus Morrison: change.orc

I’ve been avidly keeping pace with the plight of Nostalrius, the Vanilla WoW private server that Blizzard hit with a cease and desist order. Nostalrius ceased—and indeed desisted—but its community did not: the obligatory internet petition set up in the wake of the closure has passed 200,000 signatures.

I know that petitions typically have the weight of a primary school book report, but it’s an endearing show of passion from a legion of longtime fans. Will Blizzard allow Nostalrius to continue? I’m almost certain it won’t. But it can’t have failed to hear 200,000 people clamouring for access to a game it controls. Doesn’t that sound like money to you?

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