This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Andy Kelly: Second time lucky

I finally finished Watch Dogs 2 this week after 31 hours of hacking my way around its amazing, if slightly too small, recreation of the San Francisco Bay Area. It's the most fun I've had with an open-world game since GTA V, and I love how much colour and personality it has—especially after the dreary, charmless first game. It reminds me of the transition from the first Assassin's Creed to the second. The original felt like an experiment that didn't quite work out, but they finally nailed in the sequel.

And I was surprised by how attached to the characters I got. When I first saw the artwork of the DedSec crew pre-release I thought they looked like a bunch of, well, twats. But they're a genuinely likeable group of people with interesting flaws and personality traits. My only real gripe is the structure, which seemed to repeat itself a lot. Every mission in GTA V feels hand-crafted and unique, but in Watch Dogs 2 there's a lot of repeated infiltrations of enemy-controlled areas. But apart from that I loved it, and it's one of my games of the year.

Chris Livingston: Divide by zero

It’s nice to see free weekends are becoming more common. Overwatch and Titanfall have had free trials recently, and now they’re joined by The Division which you can check out this weekend without paying a penny. I know The Division has had its problems, and I wasn’t especially fond of it when I played at its launch, but Ubisoft is still tinkering with the formula and Andy Kelly enjoyed the new Survival mode. If you’ve been eyeing it over the past few months, and enjoy the free trial, you can also buy it at half-price until December 19.

Samuel Roberts: Remedy jam

Here was me worried that nothing good or bad happens in December (except the holidays), and then along came this brilliant slow jam on the role of music in Remedy's games, featuring the studio's creative director, Sam Lake, and composer Petri Alanko. It's about the most Remedy thing you could possibly think of: offbeat, self-aware and oddly evocative as the pair explore how licensed music changed their games over time. 

If you're a fan of Max Payne, Alan Wake or Quantum Break, you owe it to yourself to watch Sam Lake do some light dancing. I want to play the Remedy musical game Lake touts at the end. How can we make this happen?

Joe Donnelly: If you go down to the woods...

The problem with this time of year in Videogameland is that everything goes a bit quiet. The mad rush of devs and publishers desperately forcing their games out the door before Christmas has subsided, and we're left looking to the new year for the next Big News. It's exciting, then, when games due in January feed us mid-December teasers. To this end I was impressed by the images Cyanide released this week for its incoming horror detective game Call of Cthulhu, but I was over the moon with the trailer Infinite Fall launched today for its 2D indie exploration affair Night in the Woods. 

I fell in love at first sight with its aesthetic back in 2013 and have been steadily more impressed by the slivers of footage that have surfaced since. Albeit fleeting, today's short takes a look at disenfranchised cat protagonist Mae, the world in which she lives, and some of the mechanics she'll use to interact with her surrounds. It looks fantastic. Night in the Woods is due January 10 and I’ll be there immediately.

Tyler Wilde: Good old hockey game

I’ve already lamented the lack of sports games on PC plenty, so I’ll save you that rant except to say that I think the landscape that mostly drove 2K and EA away from releasing PC sports games in the 2000s has changed, and they ought to come back. But where there’s a hole to fill on the PC, someone always fills it eventually: enter Old Time Hockey, an NHL 94-style game that was announced this week. I’m not convinced I’ll love it from the trailer, but I’m certainly convinced to give it a try, because the good old hockey game is the best game I can name.

Jarred Walton: Ryzen Shout

AMD has started to unwrap their Christmas presents early, giving us a peek at Zen, their new processor architecture, which will launch in Q1’17 as the Ryzen series of processors. I took a deep dive into everything that’s changing, and there’s a ton of stuff to cover, but the main takeaway is that Ryzen looks very capable. Perhaps more importantly, I expect AMD to have a sub-$500 part that will give Intel’s $1,050 i7-6900K some much-needed competition, with the 8-core/16-thread Ryzen likely to carry pricing much closer to Intel’s Z170/Z270 platform rather than going after the extreme (particularly when it comes to cost) X99 platform.

We’ve needed a real alternative to Intel’s high-end CPUs for a while now, with Intel having held the pole position going all the way back to the Core 2 Duo launch. That’s maybe not entirely fair, as AMD had some good options with their Phenom II parts, but those launched in 2009-2010. Basically, the entire Bulldozer line ended up being AMD’s version of Intel’s Pentium 4 as far as I’m concerned. Will Ryzen be AMD’s Core 2/Core i7 comeback? I’m not convinced they can reclaim the heavyweight crown, but at least Zen won’t hit the floor with a first first-round knockout whose only real selling point was lower prices.

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