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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Hitman 3

THE LOWS

Angus Morrison: Splitman
I took a trip to see the new Hitman game and thought it odd that I got a mere glimpse of its Italian map, Sapienza, with just a few months to go in development. But Io explained the structure they were aiming for: the first three levels would release, for a reduced price, followed by three more levels at monthly intervals. I was largely onboard with the idea—the Paris level I played is truly vast, and will take dozens of hours to master. A living underworld supported by time-limited targets and new locales could do great things for a bustling community busying itself with Contracts mode in the meantime.

The news that Hitman will now be completely episodic isn’t so welcome. The sudden change, for which Square Enix had to cancel existing pre-orders, suggests that this is the product of a tight deadline and not necessarily the conviction that an episodic structure is the best thing for Hitman. I don’t think it’s a disaster—the Paris map was Agent 47 at his peak—but it points to devs under pressure, hurrying to adopt a structure Hitman wasn’t originally intended to hold.

Tom Senior: Assassin’s screened
The Assassin’s Creed games are as close as I really ever want to get to an Assassin’s Creed movie. At the height of its wit, in Assassin’s Creed 2, I could only really stomach the dialogue and conspiracy nonsense for exchanges of two sentences at a time in the occasional cutscene, and ideally Ezio would be doing something spectacular with a sword at the same time to keep things lively. When I imagine that stretched to two hours, even with Michael Fassbender, part of me cries “nyoooo”.

I admit that some of my resentment comes from residual disappointment for the movie adaptation of Prince of Persia, which could have been a funny, light Arabian Nights action movie with time travel jokes and fancy blade arts, but instead it was stodgy, serious and unstoppably boring. When I look at Fassbender’s Desmond (Correction: not Desmond, but whoever) sitting in a dingy cell with a priest, I can’t see how this will turn out any other way. I hope they get at least one good swordfight out of it at least.

That Dragon Cancer Slide

Tyler Wilde: Getting mad online
Lots of people have been persecuted for writing and selling books, but the basic idea that one can profit off of sharing a personal experience isn’t typically the core issue. No one was furious at the concept of raw and personal stories being sold at bookstores when Howl was censored—they were furious at the specific content of the poem. And today, bizarrely, there is a visible reaction to That Dragon, Cancer which casts it as an attempt to profit off of tragedy, scorning it not for ‘scandalous’ content, but for having any real content about disease, and loss, and grief.

It’s a personal story by two people, and if that’s wrong, and it’s really immoral to sell memoirs, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings becoming a bestseller was lewd, then I’m afraid these folks have many more targets than they may realize. But these accusations, of course, are all a smokescreen swept over the real issue: the domain of games belongs to no one.

Games that are different, games that are ‘not games,’ games that don’t exist purely to be fun, and all sorts of other games are increasingly going to be in front of our eyes as more people have access to the medium, and my head cracks against the idea that this is a bad thing. It doesn’t mean anyone has to like any given game just because it’s avant garde. I reject the weird idolization of sentimentality that has poured “feels” into my consciousness, and it’s ridiculous to suggest that media which deals with serious topics must be treated with automatic adoration and reverence. But what a farce that expressing grief in a game is ridiculed simply for doing something so core to artistic expression.

Chris Livingston: Down with the sickness
I've been sick this week. It started with a sore throat, progressed to a painful cough, then finally settled into my sinuses for lots of sneezing and snurfling and struggling to breathe. When I'm sick I try to put good things into my body: tea, juice, vitamins, and so forth, yet I also try to put bad things into my eyes and ears. Crappy action movies, terrible TV, the worse they are the better I feel.

I realized this week I don't have any games that fit this bill, this sort of guilty pleasure, so-bad-it's-good designation. I've never had the thought "Tonight I just want to zone out and play some really bad games." Are there guilty pleasure games? Are there games you play specifically when you're sick? Let me know in the comments: I haven't kicked this cold yet and I've got a sniffly weekend to kill.

Tharsis Slide

Samuel Roberts: Deep space dramz
I really wanted to like Tharsis, the dice roll-y turn-based space strategy game released this week. But from Tyler’s review, it just sounds like there’s too much working against it, that the gambling-style nature of making that space journey difficult for the player ends up taking away from the fun.

With something like FTL, which I think is still a little too tough unless you’ve played in a certain way (the final boss, specifically), you get a feeling of player empowerment for the decisions you make—it’s fundamental to that game’s appeal. If you sense dice rolls working too much against you, that feeling is lost and you wonder why you’re taking the journey to begin with.

James Davenport: Tomb Waiter
Maybe it’s because I reviewed a super sad game this week, but I can’t seem to find the motive to stick with any games right now. I think it’s because Rise of the Tomb Raider releases at the end of the month, and I know I’m going to give myself over to it. Climbing and exploration are my video game achilles heel. I love jumping around like a fool and digging around in scary caves. Yeah, I’m a simple person, and after the glut of writing and playing games before break, I think I’m ready to play something without thinking too hard about it. Being me, that probably won’t happen, but it’s the hope I’m holding on to. Before I dive into a big game, I tend to take a break anyway. It’s hard for me to play something bit by bit, I’m consumed rather easily, so keeping the space between big releases relatively empty has been pretty good for me.

That said, I can’t help but feel envious when I see friends and coworkers return to their One True Game on the reg. I wish I had something I felt truly invested in, something I could return to without treading water. The last time I felt close was playing Super Hexagon, and but that didn’t end well. I’ve been poking Elite Dangerous with a ten foot pole without luck. Sometimes I think about Diablo, and then I stop thinking about Diablo. I don’t know, maybe I’ll just keep leaping between games, raiding them for whatever I can carry, and bailing. It’s tiring, lonely work this having fun business.

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