This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Shenmue looks like Shenmue

This Shenmue 3 trailer got a bit of a backlash this week for looking a bit pants—and fair play, the lack of facial movement and overall PS2-ness of the trailer does look slightly pants compared to your average big modern blockbuster. But then, didn't Shenmue always look pants? This probably isn't my high of the week when Age of Empires 4 got announced, to be honest, but this is exactly what I expected from a crowdfunded Shenmue, which was always going to be a step down from two of the most expensive games of their time. 

The slight crummy quality of it has a certain charm, I think, plus the music's on-point. I wasn't expecting photorealism, and I sure as hell didn't get it.

Tom Senior: A new era

Age of Empires is back! When Microsoft announced a slick HD remaster of the original Age of Empires at the PC Gaming Show, we secretly hoped that it might mean something for the future of the series. I loved the old games, but the most exciting thing about this week’s announcement is the fact that Relic is making it. The creators of Homeworld and Company of Heroes—one of the best RTS games ever—have never tackled historical combat before. Will they apply Relic’s school of RTS design to the project, with a focus on territory control and tactical squad manoeuvring?

Sam and I chatted about the merits of rebooting the series earlier this week. I would understand if Microsoft insisted that the new game adhere to the strictures of the series, but I’m keen to see Age of Empires’ core ideas reworked into something accessible and modern. I loved the old Age of Empires games because they let me play with vibrant depictions of history’s most exciting warriors. Focus on that and Age of Empires 4 will do just fine.


Chris Livingston: Tower of power

Cool nature fact: sharks have existed longer than trees. Cooler nature fact: dung beetles use the Milky Way to push poop-balls in a straight line. 

Coolest nature fact? Giraffes are merciless and unstoppable killing machines. It must be true, I saw it in a video game.

James Davenport: Quaking in my shoots

Earlier this week Quake Champions released into Early Access on Steam for $30, even though it’ll be free to play when it officially launches. As a big fan of pointing and clicking moving objects, I couldn’t resist giving it a shot, even if my hopes weren’t particularly high. Good news! It’s Quake and Quake is quite good! Bad news, though! I’m still not great at Quake. But that’s ok, because when playing a team-based shooter like Overwatch or Battlefield, I feel constant pressure to play my role according to a meta that I definitely haven’t sussed out. Patch notes and endearing dev video updates aren’t my thing. 

But in Champions, I only feel the need to outperform myself. It reminds me of my old track and field days, throwing big arbitrary implements. Like perfecting the swing of a leg during a discus spin, I love practicing minute details related to movement and aim in Quake. I get my ass kicked quite often, but I only really care about my own K/D. That said, Quake Champions’ customization menus are a god damn maze. There’s a surprising degree of customization for characters that will appear as a distant blur most of the time, but equipping a hat is a greater challenge than any duel I’ve had in Champions so far. 

Bo Moore: Mercy Me

Overwatch's Mercy is finally getting some changes. The healer premier of Blizzard's marquee hero shooter has remained mostly untouched since the game's launch, but for a number of reasons, she was due for an update. The changes look really promising, and I'm excited to see Blizzard taking a more judicious approach reworking her entire kit than simply adjusting a few numbers here and there. 

Even more exciting, at least personally—I don't play Mercy too much, but as a tank main I'm pretty high on these changes. A more active, engaged Mercy means I get more heals, and a non-ultimate Resurrect means I'm popping right back into the fight, instead of having to wait for Mercy's big 5-man revival. Couple these changes with a few to D.Va and we might even have a new meta on our hands. Bring it on.

Andy Kelly: Deep freeze

Distrust, released this week, is a survival game inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, which is still an incredible film. The claustrophobia, the gruesome practical effects, that synthy Morricone score, Kurt Russell destroying a chess computer. It's perfect. But while Distrust doesn't quite capture the brooding atmosphere of the movie, and is a bit too reliant on slowly-filling progress bars, it does have some neat ideas.

Set in a randomly generated Arctic base, you're part of an expedition whose helicopter crashes in the middle of a blizzard. You explore the abandoned base looking for survival supplies, and eventually encounter strange anomalies that come out whenever you try and fight fatigue with sleep. It's a cool concept and I'm a big fan of the detailed isometric visuals. I don’t love it yet, but I’m a sucker for any game that has even a slight whiff of The Thing.