This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Andy Kelly: Wild open spaces

After watching the trailer for Far Cry 5 and reading our first look, I am officially a bit excited. I’m a longtime fan of the series, but I think I’ve finally had my fill of outsiders journeying to exotic locations and freeing the locals from tyranny. Montana is a very different prospect, and the setting looks less wild and untamed than what we’ve seen in other games. In fact it seems almost peaceful and idyllic in some places, but I’m sure I’ll be putting an end to that the moment the game thrusts a flamethrower into my hands.

I’m interested to see if Ubisoft shakes the structure up. The outposts in the last few Far Cry games have been some of the most fun I’ve had in a PC shooter. The freedom of choice and variety of tools at your disposal is always exhilarating. But I always find the more linear story missions, while often spectacular, way less interesting. I’d like to see the outposts become part of the story in a more meaningful, direct way. They’ve always felt weirdly separate from it, and that’s always been the weakest aspect of the series for me.

I’m also excited about having a whole new world to do some nature photography in. I lost track of how long I spent wandering around Kyrat and the Rook Islands taking pictures of wildlife and landscapes, and I’ll definitely be doing that again here. Far Cry has always been a virtual photographer’s dream, and the brief glimpses we’ve had of the new setting so far hint at some pretty glorious scenery waiting to be snapped. A lot of major game series are being shelved or killed off lately, so I’m glad to see Far Cry has weathered the storm.

Tom Senior: White hat

Several members of the PCG team have discovered Hacknet at the same time. It’s an evocative hacking sim with echoes of Uplink, but with a more directed story and a sweet interface. Sadly it’s just gone off sale, but it’s still only ten bucks, and it’s due to receive an update that lets you create your own missions and share them on the Steam Workshop.

If you like this sort of thing, check out Andy’s roundup of games that use simulated operating systems to draw you into their world. It’s a niche collection, but it’s full of surprising gems.

Joe Donnelly: Don't believe the hype

Despite considering myself quite anti-establishment, anti-norm and anti-status quo, I gave in to Playerunknown's Battlegrounds this week. But it's fine, I told myself, I'll totally bounce off it, decry the hype as overblown and move on. Games like this come and go and there's no way it could be as fun as everyone else is saying, right? You know where this is going. I loved it. 

I loved it from my first death at the hands of a semi-clad mohawk-sporting point-blank shotgunner, all the way through to my latest 5-kill/19th-ranked current best score. That's what I get for being an anti-mainstream hipster prick, I reckon. In some respects I'm glad I went in cautiously, because it's in turn made my enjoyment seem that little bit sweeter. I'm starting to get better too, which of course makes the hunt more intense. It's early days yet given PUBG's Early Access status, but if it continues follow a similar trajectory, while keeping up and adding to its current playerbase, we can likely expect big things. Oh, and I also love its doors

Chris Livingston: Fall In

Fallout 4 is free to play this weekend, for the first time ever. While it's not the best RPG Bethesda has ever made, I like it an awful lot and it's still completely worthwhile if you haven't played it yet. Plus, there's nothing stopping you (as far as I know) from trying out the incredible selection of mods available thanks to the tireless and generous modding community. For instance, the mod that overhauls the settlement system, the one that adds remote-detonated explosives, and the one that replaces your wrist-squishing Pipboy with a sweet-looking handheld tablet

You might as well go ahead and check out our list of the best mods for Fallout 4 while you're at it. And, after you've played the game a bit, you'll probably want the mod that lets you shove Preston Garvey around. Trust me on this.

Evan Lahti: Deep breaths

Have you ever had one of those home repair projects that takes six or seven trips to Home Depot to fully solve? That's what playing Oxygen Not Included has been like for me this week. I can't fix my water filtration system. My ventilation is an awkward maze of gas pipes and misplaced filters. I have no idea how to heat my garden area to the ideal air temperature. It's a testament to ONI's fidelity that my real-life aloofness about this stuff extends into the game.

And yet it's so fun. As I'm concocting messy physical solutions to physical problems, I feel like I'm actually earning a deeper understanding of gas concentration, or plumbing, or how to recycle finite resources like clean water. I think Kerbal Space Program is one of the only other games that's delivered 'real-world learning through doing' in the same way. ONI's still in alpha, and I'm hoping that Klei adds a lot more depth and interactions between duplicants as the game undergoes more updates, but enjoying beating my head against its rocky walls.

Oh, and unrelatedly:

Bo Moore: Nova Man's Sky

I wrote earlier this week how, after trying it out in order to get D.Va's Officer skin in Overwatch, I've been enjoying Heroes of the Storm much more than expected. (Or, put another way, how Blizzard tricked me into liking HotS.) In that article, I offhandedly mentioned that I enjoyed playing Nova, the stealthy sniper that hails from Starcraft 2. What I didn't know, what with being totally new to HotS, is that I had unwittingly made a meme of myself. "Not another Nova main!" lamented many of the commenters, both here and on Reddit. Apparently Nova sucks, but is frequently played at low skill levels because her kit appeals to noobs like myself.

Well, you know what? I don't care. I dig her stealth and her high-powered sniper shots. Sure, I'm playing some other heroes too (Artanis is a new favorite, for example), but Nova remains the hero I return to after getting stomped as someone new. I don't know if I'd call myself a Nova main, but I'm certainly going to keep practicing with her. After all, how else am I going to become the #1 player killer hero in the game?