This week's highs and lows in PC Gaming

Quantum Balls

The Lows

James Davenport: Time in a box

I typically love Remedy. Max Payne and its sequel were some of the most formative PC games for me, and I’ve played through Alan Wake several times for its hokey episodic video game interpretation of Twin Peaks. But Quantum Break is a mess so far. It stutters on a decent PC and some physics objects waggle all over the world at random. In a particularly urgent cutscene, the main protagonist's earpiece struggled to fly off of his head, pulling and twisting with a life of its own while he rambled on about time. I expected the combat to feel stylish, but the time powers just feel like damage and defense buffs accompanied by blurry visual flair, and the level design has been locked warehouse after locked warehouse. ‘We need to find another way in! Time!’

And the live action component? Phew. That show wouldn’t last a week on SyFy. Characters are introduced willy-nilly and rely the player reading piles of epistolary collectibles in the game to flesh out. Stopping to dig through emails on every laptop I see destroys the urgency of the game narrative, and is pretty boring regardless. I love the idea of Quantum Break, but it might have been too lofty a project for Remedy to execute. That said, I’ll finish it. I’m curious to see how it plays out, disaster or not. Science or whatever.

Evan Lahti: FPS flood

This is a silly thing for me to complain about, but holy hitboxes, did every studio on Earth decide to make a multiplayer FPS in 2016? We’re about to have total genre saturation. Doom looms with Overwatch also exiting beta in May, but just over the horizon are Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, Battlefield-something-or-other, Paragon, seemingly Titanfall 2, LawBreakers, Shadow Warrior 2, Escape From Tarkov, an unannounced Call of Duty, Homefront: The Revolution, along with more melee-driven first-person stuff like Mirage: Arcane Warfare and Battleborn.

When you factor in updates to CS:GO, TF2’s incoming matchmaking mode, Arma 3’s upcoming Apex expansion, Killing Floor 2’s new versus mode, and Early Access stuff like Squad, it’s outright overwhelming to FPS fans like me. I’d love to have the time to drop a hundred or more hours into most of these games. Realistically, if stuff like Evolve and Battlefield Hardline are indicative of how hard it is for an FPS to build a stable community these days, only a handful of these games will be thriving in 6 or 12 months.

Tf2 Slide

Wes Fenlon: VRough VRoad

VR headset sales are expected to top $2 billion by the end of 2016. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of headsets sold. I just wish the rollouts were going more smoothly for early adopters. Both HTC and Oculus have had real shipping and fulfillment issues this month, meaning thousands of people excited to get their headsets have seen those delivery dates pushed back by weeks or even months. Some have had their orders canceled. From our testing, the hardware is working well and there are some great games to play. But it’s frustrating to see our readers, and the people who have really championed VR, stuck waiting to get their gear. Launches at this scale rarely go perfectly smoothly, but this process has also been a long time coming. VR fans have good reason to feel let down.

Phil Savage: Are we compatible?

I'm back playing Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, after an absence of about 16 years. It hasn't been a smooth process—the game is reticent to work on modern operating systems. Fair enough, that's going to happen. As games get older, I accept that I'll need to patch, tweak and tinker.

Thing is, I'm not using my original disc. I re-bought the game recently, as part of the Ultimate Collection available through Origin. That makes this more galling, because Origin—EA acting as both publisher and retailer in this instance—gives no warning of compatibility problems. It warns that, thanks to the Gamespy server shutdown, online services won't be available. It seems irresponsible to not also warn that the game might not work at all. I wish retailers were more upfront about this stuff, and that publishers were better at creating official compatibility fixes. If you're going to let people spend money on your game, you should either ensure it works or warn that it doesn't.

The Division Explosion Slide

Angus Morrison: Not infected—infested

The Division entered New York to rebuild after a horrific disease. Instead, they found it riddled with bugs. The arrival of The Division's first raid equivalent, Falcon Lost, has reveal catastrophic structural problems in the game at large—so many that the devs are struggling to keep up.

The first ‘category’ of glitch allows people to skip most of the wave-based encounter and go straight for the boss by vaulting through solid walls. It’s the same method that was used more than a month ago to access areas thought to be reserved for DLC. Worse, defeating the boss this way awards loot every single time instead of on a weekly basis. It’s thrown the balance of PvP hard towards the cheaters.

Then people figured out how to stack talents over and over, not only increasing weapon damage monstrously but destablising the servers due to the high volume of traffic it caused. This bug has been fixed, and a smattering of permabans are said to have been handed out, but the sensation is that Ubisoft is plugging holes in a sieve.

Jarred Walton: Here’s your pink slip

By all accounts, Intel had a great year in 2015, and Q1 showed a non-GAAP profit of $2.6 billion. And yet overall, the technology giant seems to be struggling to adapt to a changing market, failing to penetrate the emerging mobile (i.e., smartphone and tablet) segment in any major way. Now, as part of their continued “restructuring” plan, Intel expects to cut around 12,000 positions globally. And it’s not just Intel, with AMD, Microsoft, and other tech companies also reporting lower than expected revenue.

Business is business, and Intel is undoubtedly looking ahead and planning for the future. They’re doing well overall, but with another year of declining PC sales, Intel is looking for other sources of revenue. Change is never easy, whether on a personal or corporate level, and this will affect a lot of people and their families. Hopefully 2016 turns out better than 2015.


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