This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Andy Kelly: Monkey business

So they’re making a new Beyond Good & Evil. I didn’t think it would ever see the light of day considering the original’s limited cult status. It’s a beloved, respected game in some circles, certainly, but it’s not exactly the guaranteed unit-shifter that’ll have Ubisoft’s shareholders dancing with delight. There are no surly military men with guns in it for a start. But I’m glad it’s happening, because judging by that trailer it’s going to be a game heaving with imagination. The art is incredible, and I bloody love that cheeky cockney monkey. What a lad.

But these lavish pre-rendered trailers rarely reflect the games they promote, and I was wondering what Beyond Good & Evil 2 would ACTUALLY look like. Then Ubisoft released this video of creative director Michel Ancel playing the thing—or at least an early development version of it. The final product could change massively when it’s finally released in, I dunno, the year 2035. But even so, the tech on show here is massively impressive, and has given me more faith in the game actually existing in some form outside of a flashy trailer.

Samuel Roberts: Ship happens

I did wonder, during my quite fun E3 demo of Skull and Bones where I got absolutely battered by my opponents in a mad grab for treasure, whether there'd be a decent singleplayer component. Sounds like there will be. The combat was only half of Black Flag's appeal, in my opinion, with the other half being exploring that vast collection of islands. I hope at least a little of that filters through to the narrative campaign.

This is a very specific kind of multiplayer experience, and I wonder if just being focused on boat combat is too narrow to truly take off. I hope not, though, especially when Tim's comparing it to something as specific as Burnout

Chris Livingston: Blank canvas, Blank mind 

I love games that give me the freedom to play how I want, but when there's too much freedom—go ahead, do anything!—my imagination often locks up faster than... a thing... that locks up fast. See, I could have written anything I wanted there, but I came up with nothing. Damn freedom.

So, when I played Passpartout: The Starving Artist, which lets you paint whatever you want, I wound up painting mostly pictures of trees. I just couldn't think of anything else to paint. Luckily, one customer was quite happy with my horrible, unimaginative tree paintings, and luckier still, the game is highly enjoyable so far, a sort of Diner Dash but with art instead of food. I plan to continue playing to see if I can make it in the art world, and hopefully the next time I play I'll come up with more ideas to paint than... a thing... that's good about... coming up with painting ideas. Yeah. Perfect.

Tyler Wilde: Danger close

One of the responsibilities of squad leaders in Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is to peer through their binoculars and mark targets which the team’s commander can call artillery strikes on. A good commander will constantly let SLs know when they’ve picked a good spot, and when they should move their mark. I had one of those commanders a while back, and the best moment I’ve had playing Rising Storm 2 so far came when our recon plane went up and he came in over voice chat shrieking: “SL3, hold your mark! Hold your mark SL3!” My character (I was SL3, obviously) was lying safely in a ditch, so I opened my map to see that I had, pretty much inadvertently, plopped my mark on top of half the enemy team. The commander started counting down, and it’s a minor aspect of the game, but making someone that pumped to launch an artillery strike is so gratifying. Hearing him call me out as assist notifications rolled by (“Nice mark SL3! We got em SL3!”) inspired the shit eatingest of shit eating grins. I barely did anything to deserve it, too, but that’s Rising Storm: you can spend a full minute carefully dashing between cover, accomplishing nothing before being popped in the head by an American sniper, but sometimes you might look at a tree with some binoculars and wipe out three squads.

Tom Marks: Killing time

Evan pulled me back into Killing Floor 2 this week to shoot evil mutant clown monsters, and I had forgotten just how satisfying that game is. Headshots feel crunchy and powerful, and constantly repositioning your defense against zed keeps it from becoming a boring base defender. Not to mention it's come leaps and bounds since the last time I played it. It's been a very long while, but the new menus, cosmetic system, new perks, and long list of maps make it feel like a much more fleshed-out game than the one I remembered. I guess that makes sense when something leaves Early Access and continues getting updates, but it's game I regret ignoring for this long. And boy am I looking forward to diving back in to shoot some zed this weekend.

Jarred Walton: The sky’s the limit

Skylake-X is here, along with little brother (don’t bother) Kaby Lake-X. My preview of performance might sound negative, and there are definite concerns, but if you need raw CPU number crunching prowess, the Core i9-7900X is a beast, especially when compared with previous CPUs running at stock clocks. The 7900X is typically 30 percent faster than the previous king of the CPU hill, the Core i7-6950X. As an added bonus, the official price for the 10-core part has dropped by $700... but at $999 it’s still way more money than most of us would ever think of spending on a CPU. But if you’re a professional and the faster CPU improves your efficiency by even 10 percent, that’s easily enough to warrant the upgrade.

Just don’t expect most of your games to run faster, as only a few of the games I tested benefit when moving beyond a quad-core processor. Two of those are DX12 games, not coincidentally, so long-term as we see more games shift to DX12, it might be useful to have a 6-core or 8-core CPU. But should you buy a 10-core chip for gaming right now? Only if you have more dollars than sense. Check back in five years, and maybe 8-core will be the new standard.