This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Evan Lahti: Hitman takes a hit

After all the praise Phil gave Hitman throughout the past year, it was disheartening this week to hear about an unknown number of layoffs at Io Interactive in Denmark. After some different angles on the series over the past decade, it felt like Hitman had found a perfect fit in its episodic release schedule, along with the addition of time-sensitive "Elusive Target" missions. Was this another case, like Tomb Raider a few years ago, of a Square Enix game selling millions but still not meeting the high expectations of its publisher?

We don't know what this will mean for Hitman, but it does add weight to 2017 and the near future being a peculiar time for developers and publishers in the 'middle'—larger-scale teams that make expensive and acclaimed games, but sell tens of millions like Overwatch, Grand Theft Auto, or CS:GO. Devs and pubs that have established, loyal audiences seem to be insulated from this (Paradox, Klei, Facepunch, Bohemia, Tripwire, and Creative Assembly come to mind), because they have fans show up each time they release something. It'll be interesting to see what the next few years look like for studios like Io as digital distribution continues to level the playing field.

Tom Senior: Vapourware

You know when you see a game pop up in your feed and part of you, deep down, suspects it’s never actually going to happen. I have been trained to think this every time I see mention of Beyond Good and Evil 2. Like the Final Fantasy VII remake, I suspect the weight of expectation is simply too great for this long-awaited sequel to really make anyone happy, even if it somehow does get made.

It’s a tough game to update. I loved the original, but it was made in a more innocent age for third-person adventure platformers. Now we expect huge, lush open worlds. Can a cute tale about a small-time photojournalist and her engineer pig pal cut it?

Chris Livingston: Ubistuff

Like Andy, I became excited to play Far Cry 5 after reading James' takes and seeing the trailers, but then I slowly remembered all of Ubisoft's Ubistuff that's been invariably crammed into their games over the past several years. I really don't want to first-person parkour my way up a bunch of radio towers to unlock portions of the map—and since I'm playing as a deputy sheriff of this Montana county, I better not have to. I live there. I should know where everything is!

The Far Cry map, much bigger and less enjoyable in FC3 and FC4 after the wonderfully compact, in-game map of Far Cry 2. Endless plant-picking, crafting a larger wallet out of animal hide just to hold extra money in, all that crap I have zero interest in. I don't have firsthand knowledge that Ubisoft has Ubistuffed Far Cry 5 with those kinds of things, but it's hard to imagine they've completely removed them, too. It's put a damper on my enthusiasm.

Andy Kelly: Seating arrangements

I hate my office chair. I bought it from Homebase (which, for non-UK residents, is a chain of mega-stores that sells furniture and DIY stuff) and it’s a squeaky, uncomfortable piece of shit. But I bought it without doing any research, so it’s entirely my own fault. It’s time to get rid of the cursed thing, but now I’ve entered a void of endless research hell.

I’ve gone from doing none to doing entirely too much, and have looked at so many chairs over the last few weeks that they’re all starting to morph into one big incomprehensible leathery blob. I have a shortlist, each of which tick various boxes, but I’ve yet to find one that ticks them all. I don’t even think it exists. This mythical chair has become my grail.

The problem is the pressure of the purchase. I’ll be sitting on whatever I buy for a long time, and for hours every day, so it has to be great. But what if it isn’t? And I’ve just thrown another £200 down the shitter? Luckily I normally get so exhausted by research that I just go with my gut and buy whatever, but right now that feels very far away.

Bo Moore: No Skin in the Game

The Overwatch Anniversary event is in full swing, and while I'm super psyched that there are a ton of cool-looking new skins, I'm pretty bummed that they're all the super-expensive Legendary tier. Paul Tassi over at Forbes calculated that even if you were to grind Overwatch games eight hours a day for the entire three-week event (because who needs sleep, right?), you still wouldn't garner enough loot boxes to guarantee all of the 11 new Legendary skins. (Not without some very favorable luck, at least.) 

Look, I get it—seasonal events and limited-edition cosmetics are Blizzard's main revenue source from Overwatch, but it's frustrating that even if you drop some pretty serious cash, you're still likely a long way from getting everything you want. Even worse, it's doubly frustrating to crack open a seasonal loot box and see that Legendary color fly, only to find you unboxed a duplicate of a non-event Legendary (this happened to me twice). I'm not saying Blizzard should make less Legendary skins—quite the opposite—but it's time to either bring down their cost, increase the amount of gold you get from duplicates, or limit seasonal loot box drops to only seasonal content. Preferably all three.

Joe Donnelly: Too financially responsible for school

This week Stafford University announced plans to run a BA (Hons) module in esports next year. As a business module, this one seems a little more practical than Rice University's Elder Scrolls-inspired 'Scandinavian Fantasy Worlds: Old Norse Sagas and Skyrim', however I'm not convinced it has much more merit—even if it's off the back of a UKIE recommendation. 

I didn't go to uni immediately following school because I wanted to enter the labour market sooner rather than later. I then went to uni many years later, to study journalism, however found that the course ultimately served to grant me access to an otherwise unobtainable student loan which allowed me to pursue freelance work on the side, subsidising me as I went. And I imagine I'll spend most of my working life paying that back. 

Bottom line: I'm not convinced esports is something that can be taught or should be studied at university. Not because I'm old fashioned or don't like esports, but because it seems like a waste of time and money. I could be wrong, time will tell, but where university degrees are far from essential nowadays, I see qualifications such as this as superfluous.