Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: what game does everyone seem to love, but you can't stand it? We also welcome your answers in the comments.
James Davenport: Spelunky
This is probably PC Gamer blasphemy, and if so, it's been a treat working with all of you. I can't stand Spelunky. To be clear, I don't think it's a bad game. I can admire it from afar, and honestly, as a fan of challenging platformers and intentionally oblique games like Dark Souls, I'm surprised I don't like it. I think it's one of the only games with a justifiable use of procedrually generated levels, I adore the secrets it's hiding, and the chaotic overlapping systems make death as gleeful as it is tragic. Here's the thing: I don't like how the little guy controls.
When you're not running, he crawls. When you are running, he moves like a buttered manatee on a basketball court. The arc and air control in his jump is too sensitive for my taste, and no matter how much I try, I can't seem to commit it all to muscle memory. I'll boot it up a few times a year because I'm an insecure child, and each time, I spend a few hours wondering when I'll die from an unexpected intersection of Spelunky's complex systems instead of a poorly calculated leap. I don't know, maybe I'm the equivalent of being left-handed or goofy-footed, but for 2D videogame jumping mechanics.
Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if some branch of neurons in my brains switched places or got all tangled up—I'm a LittleBigPlanet jump sympathizer after all, and it's regarded as one of the floatiest, most imprecise jumps in the biz. Maybe it's because I missed out on Mario as a kid and grew up with Sonic CD instead. I'm used to jumping feeling like heaving a sack of potatoes across a gulf rather than a precise, predictable math-relationship with a button. It's also possible that I'm just bad at videogames, but c'mon now. Me? Me.
Wes Fenlon: The Diablo series
I'm really stretching the can't stand definition, here, because I don't hate the Diablo games at all, or rage at the clueless masses who lap them up while I sit in my ivory tower of Not Liking Diablo. I get what keeps people playing Diablo over again—the hunt for better loot drops, the familiarity of the grind. Maybe it's the setting. Maybe it's the multiplayer. There are a lot of reasons to love Diablo. It's just that none of them work on me.
Diablo's aesthetic has never grabbed me, but the bigger deal is that I'm more or less immune to loot-driven games. I've gotten into a few, like Borderlands, but there I enjoyed the action of shooting and navigating the 3D environment with my friends. In isometric action-RPGs like Diablo, that's mostly replaced with...clicking. And clicking. And lots more clicking. And then you take a little break, and...click some more! Doing that for hours on end waiting for a 0.1 percent chance for an item to drop, or accruing a pile of equipment that I know I'll be replacing 10 minutes later, just feels more like work than fun.
Diablo just gets a big 'ol shrug from me. Now here's a real answer, though it's not on PC: Donkey Kong Country. Those games are rubbish.
Jarred Walton: The Total War games—all of them
I've been around a long time, and many of the Total War games are in my library. Thankfully, being a hardware journalist, most of those I didn't actually buy with my own money, because I find these games boring, and frankly I suck at them. I'm not sure what it is exactly, because I like other strategy games—XCOM, Sins of a Solar Empire, Heroes of Might and Magic, StarCraft, and more—but the tactical RTS approach of Total War just doesn't do it for me. Give me a true turn-based strategy game or a full RTS and I'm good, but Total War... Total War never changes.
It all started with my reading a review of the original Shogun: Total War in the PC Gamer magazine back in 2000. The idea of commanding large armies sounded great, and even though PCG didn't give it a raving review, scoring it 84 and concluding with, "A very satisfying wargame, if not the end-all-beat-all game we'd hoped for," that was enough for me. I bought the game, fought through the first couple of missions, and decided I'd had enough. I quit and went back to playing games I enjoyed more. I managed to stay away from the next entry, Medieval: Total War, because it sounded like more of the same. But when Rome: Total War received excellent reviews, I got suckered in again. At 95, it's one of the highest rated games ever out of PC Gamer UK, and the US magazine gave it Strategy Game of the Year and a 92. So I tried the series, again, and discovered that I still don't enjoy it. Sorry, Tom.
Now I've "played" the last several Total War entries for 20-40 hours each, but nearly every bit of that was me running benchmarks for hardware reviews. Last year, I played the first mission of the latest Total War: Warhammer, thinking maybe Orcs would change it up for me, but I never went back. Don't worry, though! Warhammer II is coming out next month. I'll be back to not playing it while I run benchmarks for the next year or more.
Chris Livingston: The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead, and almost entirely because Clementine was completely unconvincing to me. I want to make it clear this is not a complaint about the performance by the actor doing Clementine's voice: the performance was excellent. It was the voice itself that was the problem for me. The first time Clementine spoke in the game I said, "Ohhh noooo." I knew it wasn't a child actor but an adult actor doing a little girl voice, and that was immediately and immensely distracting to me. An adult trying to sound like a kid always sounds like an adult trying to sound like a kid. Always! (Almost always.) Note to everyone: you want to voice a kid convincingly? Hire a kid.
Take Adventure Time. That's not some 35-year-old actor doing Finn's voice, it's an actor that is around Finn's age. When Adventure Time began, Finn was 12 and the actor voicing him, Jeremy Shada, was 14 or so. That's why Finn sounds like a kid: he was a damn kid! That's why you believe it. Hire kids.
Joe Donnelly: Every Street Fighter game
I grew up in the '90s, a time when Street Fighter 2 was in perpetual development. Full disclosure: I'm terrible at fighting games. But, so long as they include mechanics that at least partially support fumbling button-bashing, characters that have semi-interesting back stories, and catchy theme music, I can make do and squeeze some enjoyment from them.
Tekken has that cool otherworldly drama between Heihachi and his son and Satan, Marvel vs Capcom has my favourite comic book superheroes, and International Karate is the only game I've ever played that lets you drop your opponent's trousers at the touch of a button. Street Fighter's characters and personality don't nearly engage me in the same way.
Worse still, a new Street Fighter 2 appeared every other week in the '90s, each of which brought with it an infuriatingly hyperbolic appendage. Super, Turbo, Super Turbo, Championship Edition, The World Warrior, Turbo: Hyper Fighting—typing these words in a sentence some two decades on still infuriates me. I dipped into both SF4 and SF5 at launch and it seems, for me, little has changed. I super, turbo, hyper can't stand 'em.