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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Wes Fenlon: Gears of Eh

I was barely able to comprehend how good Gears of War looked in 2006. It was a type of shooter I'd never played before that managed to feel more real and intense, and more ostentatious and ridiculous, all in one. And it was fun!

In the past 10 years, I've played so many games that pull from Gears of War in one way or another, most frequently its cover shooting basics. Those mechanics have become so accepted and ubiquitous that I realized, playing Gears of War 4, they've also become pretty boring. I'm not tired of shooters, but I am tired of shooters that play the same way unless there's something really refreshing paired with it—a story or aesthetic that I really connect with. I played some Doom right after finishing Gears 4, and it's so refreshing to play a game that very clearly analyzed the past decade of shooter design and asked: "Do we need this? Does this make games better?"

Does reloading actually make a shooter better? Does someone telling you where to go, attaching a story to each lever you pull and generator you start up, make a shooter better? Does a cover system make a shooter better? Maybe, sometimes! But stripping out all of that stuff can make a shooter better, too—and less predictable if you've played more than one or two shooters in the past decade.

Samuel Roberts: Star Wars Episode None

Joe's great interview with Jesse Harlin, the composer of Mafia 3, reveals some interesting details about the lost Star Wars 1313 in terms of its underworld-y Coruscant setting. For the team that worked on it, I'm disappointed the project never saw the light of day—they clearly worked hard. I'd love to hear Harlin's Massive Attack-infused take on Star Wars music. While the trailers didn't promise much more than a cover shooter set in an interesting part of the Star Wars universe, it seems a shame it all ended up on the cutting room floor, along with the at least partially written live-action TV series. Still, check out the interview for some decent insights on what it was like during Lucasarts' final days as a developer. 

Tom Senior: Failed revolution

I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten up in a game as much as I have in Homefront: The Revolution. The first hour is a parade of tired first-person cutscene cliches. Watch horrible violence unfold only feet away as you’re tied to something; walk into a cutscene where you get punched and hit with a bat and the screen goes blurry; sit still and be angrily lectured at by people who are supposed to be your allies. I sat through it all and made it to the start of the game proper. It promises to be an open world shooter about liberating outposts with resistance pals, and I’m eager to investigate that further. 

Unfortunately, the game is marred by strange persistent stuttering that renders it unplayable even on lower graphics settings. The beautifully detailed environments of the intro reminded me of the extraordinary underground towns of the Metro games, but soon they gave way to a world of brown ruins full of boxes to loot for crafting parts. There are some cool features, such as moddable weapons, vehicles and the ability to point at resistance fighters and have them follow you around. Sadly I’ll have to move it to the ‘nope’ section of my Steam library and play something else. Probably Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Again.

Andy Kelly: You’ve been framed

I've been thinking about Mafia 3's 30 fps lock, and it's just weird. 2K and dev Hangar 13 must have known there would be a backlash. I can only assume they knew full well there would be, and just didn't have time to implement the patch they say they're releasing to fix it.

Maybe there was some convoluted business reason why the PC version had to be released at the same time as the console versions? I don't know how these big companies operate, but I'd be surprised if it was decision made by the devs or anyone on the creative side. This is the kind of thing blinkered suits obsessed with spreadsheets come up with.

Or maybe they honestly didn't think it would be a problem. But that can't be it, can it? Someone who worked on the PC version must have been like "Er, guys, we can't lock this at 30 fps. People are gonna go mad. This is a really bad idea." Yet it happened, and here we are. It's just... weird. Hopefully the patch sorts it out and we can move on.

Chris Livingston: Spray and pay

Valve has brought sprays to CS:GO. Finally! And, naturally, they're monetising them because that's what Valve does now. 

Look, I know nobody is being forced at Glock-point to buy sprays, but come on. They're sprays. They're a goofy bit of fun. Or at least, they used to be. Now they're a limited-use consumable you pay for. Booo.

Jarred Walton: Lemming Powered Computers

Okay, I admit it: when I upgraded all of my PCs to Windows 10, I was a bit of a lemming. More than a bit. Microsoft waved the ‘free’ sign in my face, and I couldn’t help myself. And surprisingly, everything went pretty well for my household, with few if any serious complaints that I couldn’t attribute to user error. So when the one year anniversary came strolling along, I kept forging ahead with Windows 10 and ended up running right off a cliff.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update works fine most of the time, on most PCs, but when problems crop up, the wheels don’t just fall off—they disintegrate. I upgraded a few PCs manually in August, hoping to see improvements with DirectX 12 performance and features. That didn’t happen, but what did happen was a testbed that could sometimes stall for 10-15 minutes after booting, with no indication what was going on. I thought I found a solution, and it worked for my desktop, but just yesterday my main laptop—that I’m using to write this—had the same problem. And the previous fix didn’t work; I’m only able to write this because I haven’t rebooted lately. (The problem appeared after an “update and restart,” which ended up failing to work and rolled back to my previous state, only now with a huge delay after logging in.)

Normally I’d be inclined to troubleshoot, but for my primary work PC I just need it to let me get stuff done. It’s been plugging along running Windows 8, 8.1, and now 10 for three years, the latter two coming via automatic updates and without a clean install, but now it’s time. A full wipe is my plan for the weekend, afterwhich I should hopefully have a leaner, cleaner PC that doesn’t occasionally lock up (see my last PC Gamer Show visit where said laptop died right as it was my turn to speak). Sometimes, even lemmings need to break away from the herd. 

Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together to write this article!