The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Halo Online


Andy Kelly: Is it me you’re looking for?
Halo’s back on PC! But, er, only in Russia, and it’s a F2P game. Maybe it’s good, in which case I’m happy for Russia, but it probably isn’t. Let’s be honest. I’ve always loved the Halo series, and I wish they’d release the bloody Master Chief Collection on Steam already—but in a better state than the borked Xbox One release. Most of all, I want them to release Halo ODST on PC, which is the secret best Halo: a brilliant collection of missions that are the series at its best, linked by an atmospheric open-world hub. Bring that to PC, with fancypants new visuals, and I’ll be delighted.

Tom Senior: Too much graphics
I had a bit of a rant earlier this week about popular visual effects that are actually making our games look worse. A couple of hundred comments later and it’s clear there’s a lot of debate to be had about when visual flashiness starts to hurt a game’s playability. Ghost Recon Online (now Ghost Recon Phantom) used to be a classic example—though I haven’t played it for a year or so and can’t speak to its current quality. Back in that game’s early stages the action became easier and a lot more fun if you put all of the graphics options onto their lowest settings. The world was reduced to a series of blocks, but the framerate was fluid, enemies were easier to see, and the game immediately improved. When the style starts to interfere with the substance, it’s time to strip out those processor-hungry frills.

Asteroids Slide

Tyler Wilde: Not ready to rock
See, this is what I was talking about last week. It doesn’t matter if there are dinosaurs or zombies or space rocks, survival games need more than a hook. I enjoyed reading Chris’ take on Asteroids: Outpost (I like reading his take on anything), but it’s disappointing that Atari couldn’t manage to deliver anything better than the original Asteroids. Survival games are about taking big risks, making hard, time-sensitive decisions, and being creative. I just wish more survival games were designed with the same courage and creativity the good ones take to play.

Evan Lahti: RIP AWP
This isn’t a true low—to be honest, I’m weary of the what seems like default negative reactions to rebalancing and patch notes in multiplayer games—but CS:GO’s latest patch seemingly spells the end for a style of AWPing I’d grown quite attached to both as a spectator and player. Duncan’s writeup digs into it in detail, but Valve essentially lowered movement speed when you’re in-scope, making popping around a corner with an AWP and firing much more difficult. It’s no coincidence that kennyS, considered by most to be the best CS:GO player in the world, is an AWPer. Players like Kenny showed the world that the AWP could be used artfully, with agility and flexibility, that it had a depth far greater than its reputation as a camping tool. It’ll be interesting to see how AWPing itself and CS at large changes during the next big tournament, and during the Copenhagen Games.

Tom Marks: Waiting for Blackrock
Blackrock Mountain is also my low of the week, because I haven’t started playing it yet. I’ve committed to livestreaming each wing the Friday after it is launched—which you can watch on our Twitch channel from 3-5pm PDT—and I wanted the experience to be genuine, so I am not spoiling or playing any of the bosses for myself until I am live in front of people. I want it to be my real first impressions of the wing and, as such, I have sealed myself in the spoiler bunker. (Which is a lot like my normal desk, only with Twitch turned off.)

Pillars of the Earth Slide

Chris Livingston: Fog of Bore
I griped about this briefly not long ago, but it's slowly turning into a something of a genuine irritation for me: games that spend quite a lot of time not letting you see them. I'm talking, mostly, about nighttime in games that have a day/night cycle. I get it: it's realistic. I'm not arguing with the phenomenon of nighttime itself. I'm just sort of tired of spending fifty percent of my time in a game not being able to see the damn game I'm playing. I just don't find it fun.

Some games, like Dying Light, have a genuine reason for it. At night, the zombies mutate into something even worse than zombies, and it really changes the entire game. For true horror games, nighttime definitely makes sense. But the survival games I've been playing lately, H1Z1 (which is not at all horrifying), Reign of Kings, and so on, it's the same game, only pitch black. It doesn't really add anything. In fact, it subtracts.

Pillars of Eternity, which I've been enjoying, does double duty when it comes to not letting you look at it. In addition to nighttime, there's also the Fog of War. Again, I get the concept: just because your view is looking down from the sky doesn't mean you should be able to see what your characters can't, and I'm not asking to see through walls or trees or obstructions. But seriously, my characters are blind beyond a dozen feet. Even on straight roads in broad daylight. Even in taverns or their own well-lit stronghold. Everywhere they go, they're surrounded by this soupy fog that is irritating and distracting and ugly.

I hate to gripe about something without providing a solution, but I don't really have a one. Obviously, it's not fair to simply be able to look around the entire map before you've walking around in it, exploration should be a slow reveal, and monsters should be able to surprise you. But I wish it were tied to the environment and lighting conditions, and closer represented my characters' actual line of sight instead of just a fixed radius of soupy fog.


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