This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS 

Phil Savage: Desperate times

One of the things I love about the Hitman games is that they give you the space to figure things out. In public spaces you're free to walk around, ostensibly taking in the sights, all the while searching for clues that will help you dispatch your targets. It's a feeling that too few stealth games replicate.

I was already excited by Desperados 3 as the new game from Mimimi Productions, the developers of Shadow Tactics. I loved Shadow Tactics, and, given how unashamedly inspired by the original Desperados it was, the studio seems like the perfect choice to continue the series. But far from a retread, this is a game with some clever approaches to top-down stealth, not least of which is the inclusion of Hitman-style public spaces. Watching its characters wander through a Wild West town, listening in to conversations that hint at ways to complete missions, filled me with anticipation. As a fan of stealth games, I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Philippa Warr: Late to the party

Undertale came out in 2015 and spent ages on the Twitter discourse radar. I was repeatedly told I’d love it by friends and colleagues but I wasn’t in the right mood to settle in and enjoy it. Hollow Knight arrived in early 2017 and, despite interviewing the devs multiple times about the stunning art style of the game and keeping an eye on the big wodges of new content they added free of charge after release, it didn’t click with me. I left them both in my Steam library to wait for the right mood or moment to get stuck in. This week was that week! I’m now several hours into Undertale and loving it so far, and several zones into Hollow Knight and really reveling in that (despite dying a lot). It’s such a good feeling when good games and the right headspace finally combine!

Jarred Walton: Really and Truly eXciting

This week Nvidia officially announced its new line of GeForce RTX cards. They’re going to be expensive, yes, but forget that for a moment. I had the chance to talk with Nvidia’s Jonah Alben, senior VP of GPU engineering, and while most of that conversation is under wraps for the time being, what’s not embargoed is the core specifications of the Turing architecture, and it’s pretty mind-blowing.

The individual CUDA cores can now do concurrent integer and floating-point operations. That may not sound like much, but GPUs have just taken one step closer to mimicking modern superscalar CPUs. In addition, there are RT cores to accelerate ray tracing calculations (BVH traversal and ray polygon intersection), plus Tensor cores that can help with deep learning stuff. These updates to the CUDA cores should make them roughly 50 percent faster, for traditional graphics rendering operations. And for games that use RTX or DXR (DirectX Ray Tracing), Turing could be more than six times faster than Pascal.

If you think ray tracing—even in hybrid rendering form—isn’t a big deal, I suspect the next 20 years in computer graphics will prove you wrong. Just about every movie now uses some form of ray tracing, and it just became an order of magnitude faster. It also allows artists to focus on more important tasks, rather than dedicating tons of resources into ‘faking’ lighting and reflections.

But as big as ray tracing might be for graphics, the Tensor cores and deep learning algorithms might eclipse it in the long run. Not just because we can build Skynet, but because machine learning can do some incredible things. There’s a lot more to say about Turing, and I’ll be able to get into the details in a few weeks, so stay tuned!

Joe Donnelly: Nice to be nice

Wedged between its mysterious lightning storms, portable Rift devices and Score Royale limited-time mode, Fortnite rolled out a nice wee feature this week: you can now thank the driver before you exit the Battle Bus. It's a really simple thing, but I like it. Not to sound overly sentimental (he says before being overly sentimental), but if you play games online, you've probably played against toxic players at some time or other. It's never fun, which is why I like things like this—snippets of niceness in among the noise. Plus, the new feature reminded me of this lovely Glaswegian woman. Bye bye, driver.

Chris Livingston: Grave situation

I'm now almost 40 hours into Graveyard Keeper, a Stardew Valley-ish management game about curating a graveyard, church, and about 700 other things. I still have no idea if I'm having fun or if I'm simply compelled to complete a series of incredibly long and drawn-out chores. But I'm getting something out of it, since I continue to play it, so I guess this will be a high and not a low.

It is refreshing how damn morbid it is: part of your job is to removed body parts from corpses, which can be used for crafting, money-making, and cannibalism, and I do like when a game lets you be evil and doesn't immediately turn around and judge you for it (at least it hasn't judged me yet). I think I'll probably keep on grinding and crafting and occasionally making candles and books from human flesh. It's all part of a good day's work.

Wes Fenlon: Sekir-o-yeah

I haven't played Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the next FromSoftware game, but I have listened to James talk about it in detail on this week's PC Gamer Show. And everything I'm hearing (and seeing, in the gameplay video released this week) sounds extremely rad. I'm glad it's going to be substantially different from Dark Souls, and the more actiony combat looks really, really fun. Sekiro probably won't have quite the atmosphere or sense of discovery of Dark Souls—it doesn't seem like a game built around exploration in the same way, even if its environments look pretty big—but those sword fights look thrilling and frightening and brutal and I am fully in for From's version of Ninja Gaiden.