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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Battlefront3

THE LOWS

Tyler Wilde: “Game Engine Footage”
I’m pretty excited for Battlefront. It could be really great. But if you’re going to start selling pre-orders for a game, can we at least see what it looks like to play? EA posted a Battlefront trailer, sure, and it’s even labelled “Game Engine Footage,” but it doesn’t tell us jack about the actual experience. It’s gorgeous. It’s ridiculous. It seems unachievable. So, good job with the pretty graphics, but for now I’ll have to assume that Battlefront is a game where you float around looking at scripted Star Wars battles. Of course it isn’t that—Wes posted all the details from the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, and he saw a few minutes of real (but staged) gameplay—but I’m tired of watching movie trailers for games.

To be fair, Deus Ex just did the same thing, but we already have a pretty good idea of what that’s going to be like. The excitement there is A) that it exists and B) where the story is going. With Battlefront, I’m glad it’s pretty and glad there are TIE fighters and all that, but I just want to know what it’s like to play. Maybe EA will post some of that proper gameplay online soon, and I hope it does. Hype trailers are fine, but they really ought to compliment marketing that isn’t afraid to reveal what the game actually is. Granted, EA has been pretty good about releasing gameplay footage and doing public betas closer to release, so maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly—or just want so badly for Battlefront to be good that I'm impatient.

Chris Thursten: Power shortage
It’s finally happened: I really need to upgrade my home PC. I’ve split my GTA time between the office, where it runs at 60fps on very high settings, and at home, where my four-year-old gaming rig is finally showing serious signs of age. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt that I’ve been denied the best experience with a game by technology. The last couple of years haven’t been particularly taxing for gaming PCs, and GTA V marks the end of that. That’s a very good thing, in many ways, particularly if you’re tired of games that only make use of a fraction of what your PC can do. For me, however, it means starting once again down the long road to a new rig. Better get a new piggy bank. Or, y’know, rob a bank.

Pillars of Eternity Slide

Chris Livingston: Slow going
I admire people who speedrun games. Speedrunning demonstrates more than just skill and reflexes, but a complete and utter understanding of a particular game, how it works, and what can be exploited. At the same time, watching speedruns make me realize how I’ve never once really come to grips with a game or achieved that kind of understanding, and I usually wind up feeling like a talentless lump after watching a few.

This week we saw someone beat Pillars of Eternity in under 40 minutes. 40 minutes? It took me at least that long to find the berry bush in the very first quest. I also saw a video of someone beating Spelunky in under three minutes, which is about how much time it takes me to get through level 1-1 provided not dying is a priority. Even games I know really well, like Half-Life 2, I still wind up creeping through, as if Gordon Freeman wasn’t perfectly preserved in stasis but simply spent those ten years atrophying on a couch somewhere.

Will I ever find a game I can speed through like some sort of greased-up rocket-powered ghost? Or should I resign myself to the fact that I’ll always have to plod slowly and uncertainly through games like a guy in a pet supply store looking for that one particular brand of unscented non-clumping clay cat litter that is so damn hard to find among all the fancy-ass perfumed stuff?

Samuel: Downsizing down under
I’m sad to see 2K Australia close this week. With them and Irrational gone, 2K no longer has the talent that created BioShock within its studios, minus Levine’s ultra-lean new development startup. Australia worked in various capacities on BioShock, BioShock 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (more or less considered an uninspired but solid cover version), and the sadly ill-fated The Bureau—which, to this day, I maintain should’ve been a far better game about an alien invasion in paranoid suburban America than the forgettable shooter it eventually turned into (I think it looked a lot better at this stage). I wish the staff well.

Mortal Kombat X Slide

Tom Senior: Kombatting launch problems
I managed to shred my way through a portion of Mortal Kombat X’s singleplayer campaign last night in spite of the installer issues. The game’s config launcher option doesn’t respond at all, and the game chose to boot in a resolution that only showed me the top left corner of the image. In-game I’m getting stutters and occasional frame rate drops even on a GTX970 with 8GB RAM and a fairly quick i5 processor, and players on the Steam forums are faring as badly or worse. What the heck? After some .ini file twiddles I was able to play, but it’s in an unacceptable state for a modern launch. The devs are working on fixes, but it might be worth waiting before picking up the game to see if all the issues can be ironed out.

Tom Marks: GTA 5’s niggling issues
I’ve also been having a lot of fun with GTA V this week. The game has been incredibly well optimized, running at high settings even on middle-of-the-road machines. I didn’t have a problem with its last minute delays for polish and bug testing, because how well the game runs now is surely a result of that. What I do have a problem with is all that extra bug testing not catching a lot of really easy to find issues. Enough issues for us to fill a list that has had people flocking to it for answers since launch day. Things like not being able to run the benchmark before you complete the prologue, or a game-breaking bug if you happen to use certain characters in your Rockstar Social Club name. How do those not get caught? And why the hell does it not have Steam Cloud support for your saves? Developers, feel free to delay your games a bit to squash bugs, but at least make sure you catch the obvious stuff.