This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS 

Samuel Roberts: Nuclear options

At QuakeCon, Bethesda continued its dripfeed of Fallout 76 info, revealing what might be the most important thing about the game: how they're dealing with griefing. In short, being an asshole doesn't pay. In fact, it'll cost griefers caps, as a bounty will be put on their head paid for by their riches. It was the number one thing I worried about when they announced 76—now I feel pretty confident about enjoying the world without too much hassle.

Now I'm keen to find out more about how you can play 76 alone, and still get the most out of it. We know that some of the game's perks will support that. While I plan on playing with a few pals every now and then, most of my time in Fallout will probably still be spent wandering the map alone, seeing what's out there. 

Tom Senior: Phwoarframe

Whoops I fell into the Warframe pit and now I can’t get out. I took some advice from Steven’s introductory guide and now I’ve played it for about ten hours, and will probably play another hundred. I was carrying a poor impression of the game over from its early state but it’s a different beast now, a strange compelling beast that keeps growing and changing as the years pass.

The core five-minute mission loop is so simple, but it powers a vast, complex grind that keeps throwing up new features as I fight my way through the star map. I hatched a dog from an egg a few days ago. And I took some bounties in a 5km wide desert environment. And I put on mechanical wings and went on missions in space. I know there’s loads of new modes to discover still, from endless combat challenges to faction missions. As the story unfolds I’m starting to see the larger game behind the initial sprint around the galaxy—a game about collecting and perfecting armour sets to hone in on a favoured play style. On Steven’s suggestion I’m currently angling for the Hek shotgun and collecting recipes for new Warframes. The grind ahead is daunting, but I can’t wait to get back to it.

James Davenport: Living on monster time

The concept of time has lost all meaning. When I have a spare moment, it’s spent in Monster Hunter: World answering cries for help. It’s SOS calls on repeat. I don’t even have a goal in mind—no armor set, no weapon on the wishlist I’m working for. I’m only here to hunt. The combat is fun enough to carry me through mission after mission, and now that I’ve turned off the potently dangerous music, World has become the ultimate podcast game for me. This might be the most relaxed I’ve felt playing any game, ever. If you’re getting bogged down by the high rank grind, I highly recommend you start playing at your own pace. What’s the rush? 

Wes Fenlon: Monster style

Like James, this week has been all about Monster Hunter: World for me. I'm still not too far in the game and have a lot of story to go before I'm in high rank, where I can really start hunting some monsters. But every time I play I'm just pleased as punch with my character, who I spent most of an hour creating before setting foot in the game. I can already tell that once I get into the late-game, I'm going to obsess over finding the perfect armor combination so that I can look good while I hunt. If you're equally fashion-conscious or proud of your Monster Hunter, share your character in our article here. (That's mine up at the top).

Andy Kelly: Killer instinct

I am enormously excited about IO Interactive making a new new Hitman. Their SEO-unfriendly 2016 reboot has become one of my all-time favourite games, and the prospect of a bunch of new stealth puzzle-boxes to creatively solve is wildly exciting.

This week Square Enix released a video showing how missions will react organically to the player's actions, which sounds intriguing. The 2016 game did sometimes feel a bit like the levels were stuck on a cycle, an automated theme park full of animatronic characters.

So the idea of missions and AI being more reactive is the kind of improvement that could have a massive impact on how the game plays, and its replayability. I will miss the episodic structure, because I enjoyed having a new level to look forward to every month, but I can understand why they've gone for a more traditional release this time around.

Tyler Wilde: Team rockets

This week has been pretty low. The little grippy part on the side of my mouse where my thumb rests came loose, and now it slides around exposing my thumb to sticky tack. I had a dream that I was arguing with someone in a comments thread, which is a really low way to wake up. I also dropped my phone on one of my toes while attempting to play Hearthstone and use a stair machine at the same time, which I don't recommend. 

At least there's been one good thing, though: finally, another game inspired by Rocket League. I don't know if Mad Machines will be any good, but I could really go for more dumb ball hockey on the PC.

THE LOWS 

Andy Kelly: The long and short of it

Assassin's Creed Odyssey will apparently be "much longer" than the previous game, Origins. Now, I loved Origins, but my god, that game is too long. Far too long. I finished it, but the last ten hours were a real slog: not helped by the frustrating level-gating system that locks story missions away until you're a certain level, which inevitably means churning through samey side missions to get to the appropriate level. It almost killed the game for me.

Now, he could just mean that if you choose to do everything the game has to offer it'll be much longer. And that's fine, because I will never, ever clear a Ubisoft open world map of icons. Life's too short. But if he means the critical path, well, I'm concerned. I personally have plenty of time for long games, so it's not an issue of my life being structured in a way that makes them bothersome. It's just that few games (even really good ones) have the variety, imagination, and consistent power to surprise that makes a long game bearable.

Will I ever see the end of Odyssey? I hope so, because I'm an Assassin's Creed fan, but I'm worried this'll be another massive, bloated game I play for 25 hours and abandon, and I have enough of those in my various digital libraries already. It'll all rest on whether the missions and assorted activities are compelling enough to sustain my interest over a long period of time. I'd take a smaller, more hand-crafted experience over a sweeping epic any day.

James Davenport: Dead (Cells) inside

I wish everyone would quit talking about how good Dead Cells is. I’m sure it’s great for what it is, but it’s a roguelike with some random and procedural design, and I’ve yet to find a game since Spelunky where that sits well with me. I’d hate to start playing it, love how it feels, then get burnt out from replaying the first couple stages over and over again. It’s a tragic cycle; Enter the Gungeon, Flinthook, and countless others that feel great to play get lost in my backlog once I have to start over too often. Maybe I’m just a stubborn, aging videogame man that needs to lighten up. Maybe I just need to accept these kind of games aren’t for me. Either way, just quit talking about how much fun you’re having with Dead Cells, yeah? I want to pretend I'm not missing out. 

Wes Fenlon: The Nvidia what now?

Graphics cards, like most other hardware, always have confusing names. If you don't closely follow the hardware scene, how would you know that a GTX 980 is better than a Radeon 7870? What does "Ti" mean? Every new generation is a mess of new numbers that would strike me as utter nonsense if I wasn't immersed in hardware news all the time. And now it seems Nvidia is going to make that even more complicated by dropping its longstanding "GTX" initials and calling its new graphics cards the "RTX" series, starting with the RTX 2080. For one thing, that's the name of a Rooster Teeth event. For another, I think they're changing it to R to push their "real-time ray tracing" capabilities, which is another thing no one is going to understand. Thanks for finding new ways to make hardware names confusing!

Tyler Wilde: Buda dum da dum dum

Earlier this week, we asked you what piece of game music is always getting stuck in your head. I had a few answers, but the one this cruel question lodged in my head again was the Battlefield 1942 theme. It just keeps playing over and over, with only the first trumpet bit ever kicking in (brrrr, br br brr brrrr). And then it goes back around again. I couldn't fall asleep last night because I kept trying to remember exactly how the next trumpet bit went, but only the first part was clear, echoing again and again in the blackness.

Tom Senior: Stinker Tailor Soldier Spy

It’s a shame that Phantom Doctrine is such a muddle, because I’m desperate for more games about spies. The conspiracy board, where you assemble elements of a wider plot into a solution by moving pinned evidence around, ought to be a game in its own right. Solving mysteries while wearing a cool hat is a sorely underdeveloped genre, and there are too few games about international intrigue. Maybe a sequel can fix the game’s problems, but my dream would be an LA Noire style game run through the filter of an old BBC episode of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Samuel Roberts: Sillier seasons

I had a little look at the release schedule for the rest of the year this week. It looks OK going into silly season. You've got Hitman 2, Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Fallout 76, Battlefield 5, Forza Horizon 4 and Artifact, which might be bigger than all of them. But a lot of the big hitters are waiting for Spring, it seems. I'd totally have been down with playing either Anthem or The Division 2 this side of Christmas. Instead, I'll now play both within a month of each other.

I get why publishers divide up their schedule across the 12 months. People only have so much money at any time of year, and in 2018, console publishers no doubt want to get the hell out of the way of Red Dead Redemption, which I get. But it means we're mostly left with heavy hitters from the biggest series—last year brought the likes of Wolfenstein 2, Shadow of War, Cuphead, Gorogoa and Divinity: Original Sin 2 across the holiday period. Can this year compare for breadth of games?