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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS

Tom Senior: Ryse fails to do Romans justice
Alas, poor Ryse, scoring a mere 57 in our review. When I dabbled with it after its console release it always felt like more of a CryEngine tech demo than a fully fleshed out game. It's a bit like Call of Duty: Rome in the sense that it relies on glamorous set pieces to hide a fundamental lack of originality at its core. Harsh? Not when they're charging $40 for a relatively short game. I would love to see more games looking at Rome as a setting, however. It's an amazing stretch of history, full of grand rebellions, famous generals and political strife. It deserves better than Ryse, but at least I still have Total War.

Chris Thursten: Dota 2 is turn-based now
ESL One New York, the largest Dota 2 tournament in the west since The International 2014, has been running over the last couple of days. It’s been marred by technical issues that result in long pauses as players reboot their PCs, fiddle with network settings, and presumably wait while someone kicks Madison Square Garden’s wifi router. Initially, this seemed like a continuation of the spate of DDOS attacks that have hindered professional Dota over the last couple of weeks. Clearly the tournament showrunners thought so too, because the first step was to move the games over to fully local play—sacrificing in-client spectating as a consequence.

For whatever reason, it didn’t work. These pauses—blamed on lag, mostly—are still happening, often at deeply opportune times. The collective gasp of frustration when Na’Vi.US paused at the beginning of a crucial teamfight around the Roshan pit against Team Secret expressed the feelings of online viewers and even the players themselves. It seems like dodgy hardware is the likely culprit, but either way: this isn’t the beginning to the next year of Dota that I was hoping for.

On the flipside, there have been some incredible games already - check out Alliance vs. EG when you get a chance—and the patch 6.82 era is shaping up to be a very exciting one to watch. I just can’t wait for this ‘turn-based Dota 2’ phase to go away.

Shadow Of Mordor

Tom Marks: With a Shadow of doubt
I was incredibly disappointed by the lackluster change I saw, or didn’t see, in Shadow of Mordor’s ultra HD texture pack. Requiring a separate 3.7GB download and supposedly needing 6GB of VRAM, I was really expecting a more significant difference. Or indeed any noticeable difference. Any change so small that looking at it in-game, even when played at 1440p on one of the strongest gaming rigs out there, leaves you struggling to tell the difference is not change worth bragging about. Even if the textures are more noticeable at 4K, talking up this texture pack is sort of like advertising Maseratis on public TV. Shadow of Mordor is a beautiful game, with or without the ultra textures, so the addition of what feels like smoke and mirrors feels like something of a wasted opportunity.

Evan Lahti: CS:SLOW
Chris’s low reminded me of one of the major issues in CS:GO these days, too: DDOS attacks plague probably half of competitive matches in a given week. This year-old Reddit post decried the problem, and it still remains a major issue as CS:GO approaches a major tournament next month. Players have gotten a little bit better recently at protecting their IPs, but it’s unbelieveable, for instance, that the excellent Dreamhack Invitational a few weeks ago—a private event held on a LAN in Sweden—wasn’t safe from outside harassers. Many of the hardworking people in the scene, including the players themselves, have to spend long stretches of time sorting the issues (or swapping players altogether) just to continue play. Valve hasn’t made any public statement on the issue.

Assassin's Creed: Unity

Tim Clark: Framerate farrago
For obvious reasons, it’s mostly easy enough to ignore the now regular spats over the differing performance of multiplatform games running on PS4 and Xbox One. However, this week’s row over Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s resolution, a good precis of which can be found here, caught my attention. In an interview with our sister site TechRadar, world level design director Nicolas Guérin claimed they’d settled on 30fps for Unity because: “you don’t gain that much from 60 fps and it doesn’t look like the real thing”, citing the recent The Hobbit movie as further evidence that more frames don’t equal more reality. He also claimed the industry has “collectively dropped” 60fps as a standard, while elsewhere in the same article creative director Alex Amancio argued that 30fps feels “more cinematic”.

To which I say: p’shaw! The presupposition here is that the ultimate goal of games is to ape movies as closely as possible. Which barely requires serious consideration to dismiss. For one, I love the slick sense of hyperreality that 60 (and higher) fps engenders, and in all sorts of genres too: shooters, racers, and certainly action games like Assassin’s. Also, if their assertion were even remotely true, wouldn’t PC Gamers regularly choose lower framerates out of stylistic choice? I suspect that’s not happening widely. I understand devlopers’ need to appease the platform holders by giving the illusion these restrictions were made out of artistic choice, but let’s not pretend they’re anything other than errant bullshit. I hope the PC port of Unity lets us show what the engine can really do.

Tyler Wilde: What’s the deal with Final Fantasy XIII?
I don’t have a lot of experience with JRPGs—or love for them, really—but I’m always happy to have more variety. Maybe I’ll finally get into the genre now that I can start expecting PC versions more often—unless they’re as crappy as the FFXIII port. I know it’s not a favorite among Final Fantasy fans, but ignoring how it is as a game, as software it’s ridiculous. It’s insane to lock a game to 720p.

Durante is on the case, but we shouldn’t need workarounds for the minimum we ask for in PC games.