This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Wes Fenlon: Punked so good

Any week I can sneak an anime gif onto PC Gamer is a good week, and when that anime is Akira, it's even better. I love that crazy, visionary, half-nonsense film, and it's easily one of the most influential works of cyberpunk of all time—which makes it a great symbol for the feature we ran this week, It's time for cyberpunk games to remember how to be punk. Jody makes the excellent argument that cyberpunk in games knows how to walk the walk, but isn't very good at talking the talk: they're good at the rain and neon and grit, but not very good at giving us outcast and underdog heroes to identify with. We usually end up playing supercops instead of living on the fringes of society. There are cyberpunk games that get it right, but they're few and far between.

Mostly, reading and editing this article just made me remember how much I love cyberpunk. I have a feeling I know what I'll be playing this weekend.

Steven Messner: Jurassic Larp

Online roleplaying—y'know, the serious kind of "in-character" roleplaying—has always felt like a bridge too far for me. I've dabbled in the past, usually for work reasons, but this week it finally clicked. I jumped into one of Ark: Survival Evolved's largest roleplaying servers, TwitchRP, having no idea what to expect but my spidey-senses told me there was a story to be explored there. Boy, oh boy, there was a story alright.

In a single night, my character was knocked unconscious and then forced to sing karaoke in front of a crowd. I jousted on sheepback, went to a pool party, and then became the prime suspect in a stripper's death after our romantic walk took a horrific turn. The whole time, I was talking over Ark's voice chat with these people, acting out my character, Laz Astros. It was frequently embarrassing and a little awkward—made worse by the fact that I had an audience watching as I streamed the whole thing on Twitch. But more importantly, it was the most fun I've had in a videogame in a very long time.

Though I've dabbled, I've never really understood roleplaying. I could respect why people did it, but it always seemed a bit silly. But after that crazy night, it all clicked. It reminds me of the drama classes I took in high school—that rush of performing and feeding off the energy of others as you all work to uphold a mutual fantasy. I no longer just respect people who roleplay, I understand why they do it. If you're okay feeling a little awkward and vulnerable, I really recommend trying your best to understand it too.

Tim Clark: Divided, we stand

Reader, I am in love. Having written off The Division almost entirely after playing the beta and then giving it a go at release, I am now absolutely obsessed with it. When I originally bounced off the game, the biggest reason was the bullet sponge enemies who would merrily absorb hundreds of rounds without breaking stride, (they’re just wearing hoodies!), and the sense that the content was likely to dry up like a puddle on the planet Mercury. Returning almost a year later, The Division feels like the proverbial different game. I guess that’s what a year of balance patches and DLC will do for you. Most importantly, with lower health pools the combat feels deliciously crunchy, and so I now find myself locked in the compulsion loop of grinding for slightly better weapons. 

The only bad news is that coming to a year-old loot game as a scrub means there’s a distinct lack of people to play with. James Davenport has carried me through a few sessions—essentially because I made it clear it would be harmful to his career if he didn’t—but he’s a dilettante so I can’t rely on him sticking around forever. Shoutout, then, to Viper_USAF, who I assume is a member of the actual air force, or just a huge Top Gun fan, for carrying me through my first successful Dark Zone run and securing me a sweet AUG A3 in the process. Happening across another human in the Dark Zone made me feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend, only without the dead dog back story. Spoilers. If you’re playing, and want to roll with a freshly minted level 30 with impeccable taste in rucksacks, please add timothydclark on Uplay. (And please, please, please do not steal my stuff.)

Joe Donnelly: King of the castle

Today, the rest of the UK team are in London preparing for and hosting this weekend's PC Gamer Weekender which means I've been left to my own devices. Naturally, my first order of business was sitting in Samuel's huge editor throne as I ordered the other guys' empty chairs around, demanding coffee and Batman comics and that they let me win at Rocket League. I then hid everyone's pencil cases, glued their mouses to their desks, and inserted rude words into random pages of the next magazine issue's draft before it goes to print. I AM MAD WITH POWER.

As an aside—if you're in or around London this weekend, you should totally head along to the PC Gamer Weekender to play some as yet unreleased games, listen to some neat developer talks, and meet the PC Gamer UK team in person. Just don't tell them about the mess I've made in the office. 

Tyler Wilde: Going for distance

If the Sniper Elite series has a bargain bin label in your mind’s eye, tear it off and put it back on a nice shelf. I still think $60 is a lot to ask for just about any game, but there’s a ton of good stealth play and long-distance shooting in Sniper Elite 4 (read my review). The campaign is big and open and freeform, and superb in co-op, and the competitive multiplayer is tense and dramatic. All I want from SE4 is a better feeling to the sniping itself—it still relies a lot on an aiming guide to help players manage the challenge—but in every other way this is a huge improvement over Sniper Elite 3.

Chris Livingston: Ghost riders

I was happy to hear Ghost Recon Wildlands will be playable again next week, this time in open beta. I had fun with the closed beta, though I'm not sure if it was because it's a good game or it's just that I had good company. Either way, I'm looking forward to diving back in again and blowing up Tom's helicopter while he's flying it. I don't do much multiplayer, and I haven't played many shooters in the past year (even whilst Tim glows about The Division, I'm not sure I'm interested in returning to that grind), so a good co-op sandbox is just what I'm looking for. Hopefully the driving has been improved, and there will be a few more missions to play this time around.