This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Jody Macgregor: Feel Bad Inc.

Ruiner isn't out till next week but I've played the first couple of hours. It's a top-down cyberpunk action game that looks like a twin-stick shooter, but controls more like one of the Alien Breed games or indeed Alien Swarm—proper mouse-and-keyboard stuff. It's fast-paced and brutal.

But then you get to the first urban hub and it slows right down. Suddenly it's more like an RPG, with characters on the street having pointed conversations about the state of the city and the politics of the day. I met a vendor who runs a stall called Sad Sushi. The art's a bit anime, and makes me think of Jamie Hewlett's design for the Gorillaz. 

It's nice just to walk around soaking up the atmosphere, in between the bits where you stumble through arenas full of goons being shot and shouted at. I'll let our writer Brittany Vincent tell you more about it in her preview, but I'm pretty taken with Ruiner so far.

Tom Senior: Gang war

Gang Beasts is free to try this weekend. If you have a way of hooking up your PC to a TV, via Steam Link or a good old fashioned long stretch of wire, then this is a great way to spend an evening with friends. It’s a physics-driven farce that stars warring jelly babies on a mission to haul one another into spinning blades and lava pits. Your putty-like fighters wobble drunkenly around the game’s trap-laden arenas, avoiding monsoons of falling sausages and other ridiculous obstacles.

A lack of online multiplayer (now in beta testing) has always held the game back from being a clear recommendation, but a free weekend is a perfect way for Gang Beasts to find new fans. There are precious few party games on PC, but this is one of the best.

Andy Kelly: Good Lurk

It's amazing, really, that a half-price Dishonored spin-off game is as good as anything in the main series. Death of the Outsider is a remarkable slice of immersive simming, and I love how Billie Lurk's unique powers have forced me out of my well-worn Corvo/Emily comfort zone. I'm having to play differently, experiment more, and work with her limitations. And I've been having an amazing time doing it—particularly mission 3's bank heist.

This, along with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's similarly entertaining bank robbery, make me wonder why no one's made an immersive sim squarely focused on pulling off elaborate heists. Like the Payday series, but more thoughtful, smarter, less shooty. I would rob a bank to play that game. Death of the Outsider is gorgeous too, with some pretty astonishing attention to detail. Honestly, I'd be happy if Arkane made Dishonored sequels forever.

Ryan Fisher: The long game

Vega surprised a lot of people, just not fully in the way we had hoped. The performance has been disappointing, not because Vega is a slouch, but because Ryzen raised everyone’s expectations for all of AMD’s product releases. The good news is that historically, AMD is great at improving performance late in the game via driver updates. 

It’s yet to be seen if the latest release increases performance, but AMD has unlocked multi-GPU support—an area being abandoned by Nvidia. AMD is claiming that users can see up to 80% scaling when enabled, but this will vary from game to game. If this new-found focus on “Crossfire” support can provide better scaling, dev support might increase and I may have a reason to spend twice as much cash. Now if I can only find a Vega card for sane prices.

Joe Donnelly: GTA Space race

This week I chatted to the creators of the Grand Theft Space mod—a GTA 5 mod that lets players travel to space, land on planets and fight aliens. With a team of just eight unpaid hobbyists, the project is a pretty ambitious undertaking, though its creators say the mod is not intended to be mission-based, but "more of a platform for experienced developers to integrate scripts/maps/and other things into the DLC in order to create content and expand the community experience."

To this end, Grand Theft Space's potential is huge, with its creators likening it to Garry's Mod and Kerbal Space Program. It's early days yet, but I'd fix your telescope firmly on this one. 

Oh, and I also really like the cover of this month's PC Gamer UK magazine which went on sale this week. 

James Davenport: Total conversion

This is a snide high, but knowing that I'm going to die someday and none of this will matter makes it OK. I'm a huge Metroid fan. With parents that didn't let me play games growing up, it's all I had on my secret Gameboy for years. Fusion, Zero Mission, emulators on my PC—I sunk days of my life into playing those games over and over again. But after the iffy Metroid Prime 3, Nintendo let the series sit for awhile. In that time, indie devs took it on themselves to fill the space with excellent takes on the subgenre. 

Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, and more have since evolved and entirely supplanted anything Nintendo has ever put out, including the latest surprise Metroid game, Samus Returns on the 3DS. I had to try it, of course, and it doesn't hold a candle to anything I've played on the PC made in the same spirit since then. Initially, I was sad Nintendo left their best series behind. But now I'm happy to see it thriving on the PC, free from PlaySkool hardware (that I buy without question anyway, heh).