The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Warhammer Total War Trailer still


Tom Senior: Total Waaagh!
The Creative Assembly made my choice of a weekly high oh-so-easy today. I'm normally quite cynical about CG announcement trailers, because they're full of beautiful false promises. Nothing in the final game will match that stunning siege battle between Orc and Empire forces. The Orc skins won't be that leathery. Deathclaw the Griffon won't be that well-groomed and majestic.

I'm putting aside the snark for this video, though, because this advert happens to be the most lavish realisation of the Warhammer universe anyone has ever made in video form, easily supplanting Games Workshop's own CG Ultramarines movie (not even John Hurt could save that one). The detail—from the texture of the Orc armour to the subtle symbols carved into the stone of the church—has been lovingly traced from Black Library tomes. Games Workshop are very precious about the integrity of their lore, and no doubt CA's artists have worked in close collaboration to get everything just so. The Orcs are even comically oversized for their boar mounts. I hope to see more of that humour from the Greenskins in the final release.

I wonder how it comes across to onlookers who aren't familiar with the tabletop miniatures and the countless tie-in books and comics that prop up the Warhammer extended universe. It may look like typical Tolkienesque Orcs 'n’ Dwarves fare, but there there are extremes that CA could still show, like twenty-foot tall Chaos daemons and rapid-fire Dwarven cannons.

Chris Livingston: Conversation Ender
One of the best things about giant open-world games is that there's the opportunity to create your own fun, invent your own goals, even come up with your own mini-games. GTA 5 does that for me in story mode. Every time I climb into a car with another character on the way to a mission, I know exactly what's going to happen: they're going to have a lengthy, annoying, shouted conversation. It's irritating as hell to have someone screaming in your ear when you're simply trying to enjoy your ride, but that's where my mini-game comes in.

My goal, each time, is to arrive at my destination before I'm forced to listen to the entire conversation. If I'm Franklin, I have the option of using his driving power, which slows down time. Clicking the power quickly on and off shuts up the passenger for a few blessed seconds as well, increasing the odds that I won't have to listen to every last syllable of the pointless screeching going on in the passenger seat. With Michael or Trevor, the goal is to scare the passenger into shutting their cakehole, which means crashing through things, but not into things. If I lose too much speed, I'm not really helping the situation.

Finally, I always examine the map for possible shortcuts. Sometimes driving off the side of a bridge and dropping onto a surface street works. Sometimes, however, it gets me or the passenger killed, which means I have to start over at the beginning of the ride—and the beginning of the conversation. At that point, I usually just take my headphones off and drive safely. To be honest, I wasn't sure if this should go in the Highs or the Lows.

Marvel Slide

Samuel: Marvel x Telltale
Just last week I was talking to someone about how Marvel’s line-up of free-to-play mobile games seems like such a waste of the publishers’ characters and their enormous storytelling potential. I look at the Arkham series and imagine something similarly high-end—not a carbon copy necessarily, but an equally rich attempt to adapt game-friendly characters into something that isn’t total rubbish.

A positive first step, then, is Marvel teaming up with Telltale Games for an as-yet-untitled 2017 project. What will it be? Daredevil lawyer-’em-up? Asbestos Lady will remember that? I imagine it’s something focused on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since that’s where the big bucks are. Intriguing to me in Polygon’s write-up of the announcement was Marvel’s wider plans for making games based on its properties, explaining that future games are aiming to be “exquisite”, “sexy”, and “celebrated by Marvel fans”. Exciting.

Andy Kelly: Makin’ movie magic in GTA 5
I haven’t touched GTA 5’s story or multiplayer for about ten hours now. All I’ve been doing is playing with the Rockstar Editor, which I wish every game had. Being able to record any moment and tweak it afterwards is a blessing for someone like me who spends as much time making videos and taking screenshots of games as playing them.

It’s a remarkable bit of tech, and with the right filter and careful tweaking of the depth of field, it looks pretty much real on max settings. It also gives you a chance to admire Rockstar’s amazing world-building in close detail, and I have a whole new appreciation for how amazingly rich Los Santos and the surrounding countryside is. I really hope in-game editors become a common thing. If you fancy giving the editor a go yourself, here’s my guide to the basics.

Crypt of the Necrodancer Slide

Tom Marks: One small step
I’ve been pleased to see how many games are leaving their early access or closed beta phases lately. Heroes of the Storm, Kerbal Space Program, and Crypt of the Necrodancer all got dates for the next step of their life cycles. It’s important to remind ourselves of the early access successes, because we understandably hear a lot about the failures and scams. The system can and does work—KSP is a brilliant and shining example of that. There are definitely pitfalls along the way, but the gems that do end up shining make all the mistakes worth it to me.

Tim Clark: Feeling unusually Health-y
My fellow Warhammerphile Tom Senior has already covered our collective excitement regarding the next Total War game, but suffice to say teenage me has waited a very long time for exactly this sort of game in that amazing universe. So, I’ve gone a bit leftfield with my high this month. Specifically, the return of LA noise rockers Health, who you may recall provided the brilliant soundtrack for Max Payne 3.

The downside of that collaboration, as far as fans were concerned, was that those sweet Rockstar dollars enable the band to buy a new studio and prevaricate even longer on making their next album. Health’s last record, Get Color, came out in 2009, but now the new one, Death Magic, is ready for release in August. Shuddup about dumb bands Tim, you are doubtless already hammering into disqus, below, why is this even a high?

Well, because in accompanying interview over at Pitchfork, Health’s John Famiglietti explained the hiatus as follows: “You hear that about movies that take forever to be made or—this sounds really nerdy—the Duke Nukem Forever video game. The dude [George Broussard] lost his mind because he wanted to have the most next-level shooter. He was supposed to make it in '98 and it came out in 2011. Every year he would freak out and keep updating it because he had the hottest new mechanics. And then it came out and it was fuckin' terrible.” I love that games are the things that get referenced by other artists now, rather than the other way around. Gaming has its own mythology which has seeped out into wider culture. That’s a sure sign of how big the scene has really become. The (disgusting) video for Health’s New Coke, the first single from the record, is here.


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