This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Joe Donnelly: Two weeks, one Fortnite

Over the past couple of weeks, I've spent loads of time frolicking in Fornite's Battle Royale mode. I'm absolutely loving it and, against PUBG's realistic interpretation of the last-person-standing idea, I've particularly enjoyed Fortnite's cartoony aesthetic and playful nature. Aside from being more accessible than Bluehole's megahit—the way its map is laid out means you’re never far from the action, for example—being able to smash through walls, build defences on the fly and/or construct platforms to reach otherwise unreachable areas can blow rounds wide open. 

Earlier today, I dived into its recently announced but limited-time 50v50 mode and had one particularly bonkers showdown. A well placed grenade marked my departure with ten team members left on each side—but not before I'd sniped one foe from a sky-built catwalk above. And that felt great! I sometimes get a wee bit burnt out on videogames at this time of year, but Fortnite Battle Royale has been a welcome shot in the arm. 

Tim Clark: Gone potholing

We're currently waist-deep in the honeymoon period of the new Hearthstone set, Kobolds & Catacombs, which launched yesterday. In keeping with the generally great year Team 5 has had, it even arrived early, and—incredibly—simultaneously on EU. It's been such a crazy week what with the Destiny 2 expansion and ensuing brouhaha (see my Low for more), plus the Game Awards last night, that I haven't played as much as I'd like. But my initial impression is that this is a set packed with both powerful and inventive cards. It's usually hard to know who to single out for credit on dev teams, but I suspect that this being Peter Whalen's first set as principal designer explains the riot of risky new ideas. As for what I’ve been trying, my beloved Midrange Demonlock has been doing work in Wild thanks to Vulgar Homunculus and Voidlord, while in Standard the Hunter Spellstone is absolutely nutty. As our man predicted it would be.

I've also tried a few Dungeon Runs, one of which I managed to go 8-0 in. Before the release of the expansion, there was quite a bit of consternation about the lack of rewards from this single-player, vaguely roguelike mode—something which Blizzard smartly addressed by adding a new quest to the pool of dailies. Even without that, it's a lot of fun. I've long wanted a PvE mode that you could just goof around in while watching the TV without having to worry about the turn timer or try-harding against meta decks. Dungeon Run is full of cute touches and comedy references. I think it's going to be really popular, and hope the designers double down on the idea in future. Adding a pack per week as a reward, like Tavern Brawl, would also see off some of the legitimate complaints about the cost of the game.

Samuel Roberts: Dante's peak

As Okami HD comes to PC next week, Capcom has already announced its next HD port for PC—the Devil May Cry trilogy. For those who never played the games on PS2, here's a quick rundown of the trilogy for you respectively: good, bad, great. While DmC—the game once shouted down by some ridiculous corners of the internet literally because of a haircut—is probably the best in the series on balance, the rest are well worth playing too. DMC3 is a phenomenal, customisable and funny action game that currently exists in a sorry state on PC

It'll be nice to have them all in good condition on PC, following the quality of ports like Dead Rising and Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. I like that all of these ancient console games are coming to PC, where you can own them forever. 

Andy Kelly: Wolf at the door

I'm glad games like Vanquish, Bayonetta, and, as of next week, Okami are appearing on Steam. No more messing with emulators or digging out old consoles: just fire up Steam and there they are, ready to play, and (in most cases) nicely optimised. There are so many games I want to play again, but can't because I don't have the hardware or the emulation isn't perfect.

That's the reason I still have a Dreamcast under my TV, in case I ever have the urge (which I often do) to return to Shenmue. So I'm hoping that's next to get the HD treatment, especially with the third game in the works. Okay, so maybe Okami HD will be tricky to run on whatever PC hardware we're using in ten years, but there'll always be some mod to make it work, long after the disc drive in every Dreamcast and PS2 in the world has burned out.

Jarred Walton: the Skynet’s the limit

With no fanfare whatsoever, Nvidia dropped the bomb last night with the announcement of the Titan V graphics card, available immediately. Priced at an amazingly bargain basement discount of only $2,999, this is a card that most of us will only ever dream about. But it’s not just a status symbol, as the Titan V is built on the biggest and gnarliest GPU Nvidia has ever created. The GV100 has a whopping 815 mm^2 die size—that’s 33 percent larger than its previously largest chip, the GP100. And that V in the name stands for Volta, the newest architecture and a sign of things to come.

The Titan V isn’t being billed as a gaming card so much as a processor for deep learning. The key feature here is the 640 new Tensor cores, which have a peak throughput of 110 TFLOPS—over four times faster than any previous generation Nvidia GPU. These same Tensor cores are available on Nvidia’s Tesla V100 cards that are used in large scale supercomputer installations, but those cost closer to $16,000 each at present (they’re only available in pre-built servers that cost $149,000 and come with eight Tesla V100 cards), so the $3,000 price really is a bargain by comparison.

Forgetting the cost, what’s awesome about the Titan V is that it means consumer Volta cards are not too far off. A new Titan tells me that in less than six months we should get a new series of GTX cards, so we’re on track for a reveal sometime between March and June of 2018. And when you look at the specs of the GV100, it’s easy to imagine ways to trim things down for a gaming-focused card that will keep all of the good and dispense with the extra stuff we don’t need.

Like what? Start with the 640 Tensor cores and the half-speed FP64 support, neither of which will benefit games. We can probably live without HBM2 as well, as GDDR6 can reach similar bandwidths for a lower cost. With the 12nm process, that should get the die size back into the reasonable range of 400-500 mm^2. Will we have a GTX 1170 and 1180 launch this spring (or maybe GTX 2070 and 2080), with performance that trumps the GTX 1080 Ti at a lower price? My crystal ball says count on it.

Tyler Wilde: WarGames, WarGames changes

An unexpected announcement this week: Her Story creator Sam Barlow is working on a game based on the 1983 movie WarGames, reimagined for the modern world. The hashtag in the title (officially it's "#WarGames") is not my favorite thing (when Twitter is a distant memory, we're going to have a lot of explaining to do about this decade). And the interactive video platform, Eko, hasn't exactly inspired me with its weird series of "That Moment When" shorts where you roleplay breakups and drunken blackouts as a quirky 28-year-old. (A fun fact about sitcoms is that every character is 28 or thereabouts, because they always have a 10-year high school reunion episode.) But I trust Barlow to make something cool with any medium. Her Story was great, and I'm excited to see what he and actor Jess Nurse create with help from what I assume is a much bigger production budget.

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