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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Tom Senior: Keep on rocketing

Jetpacks are very good. Everyone knows this, and yet we don’t get to play with them in games nearly as much as we should. After only a few hours with Anthem I have no clue whether it will become the forever game that it wants to be, but I do know that the flying is a lot of fun, both as a means of traversal and as a tool in combat. 

I chose to unlock the speedy Interceptor Javelin, which comes with a triple jump and a fancy spinning melee drop attack. When I encounter a boss with a big shield I acid grenade them, double jump into the air, zoom over their head with my jetpack, and then start knifing them in the back a hundred times a minute (meleeing into the acid cloud triggers a ‘COMBO’ that makes me leak acid from my person—bonus!). The gorgeous world might become samey after a while, and we don’t know yet whether it will have the hooks to keep players happy long term, but the jetpacks are awesome.

Samuel Roberts: Leon A, Claire B

I finished my runthrough of Resident Evil 2's campaign last Sunday, and hot damn, I loved it. Not only will it be in my nominations for GOTY 2019 on PC Gamer—I'll be pushing for it in the PC Gamer Top 100, as well. What a merciful relief that it's only six hours, but that there's the potential to spend a bunch more on the B campaign, and then the option to flip the order you play as Leon and Claire in yet another playthrough. Plus you've got bonus modes and free DLC. It's fantastic

I love how it's the opposite of most other blockbuster games right now: there's just a few main environments, tightly designed and beautifully constructed to be unravelled by curious players. Now, how do I get Mr X to stop chasing me in this damn B campaign?

Fraser Brown: Apex Predator

I managed to escape battle royales for all of ten minutes before getting sucked into Apex, and it's devoured far too much of my free time already. I'm still working on getting that first victory, but I'm feeling pretty blue after discovering that my go-to co-op buddy had gone off and scored TWO victories without me this week. Maybe I'm the problem? So… why the heck am I putting this in the highs? Because it's good! So good! But you probably already know that. 

There's just something very satisfying about playing a highly polished, intuitive shooter that overcomes one of multiplayer's biggest hurdles: communication. I think I'd dig it even if I was finally done with battle royales. After the initial wave of excitement, I wasn't sure how long I'd stick around for, but now that we're in week two, I'm enjoying it even more. My resolution to play fewer timesinks hasn't lasted for very long. 

Bo Moore: An arrow to the knee

I've been playing a lot of Apex Legends this week, and have even managed to secure a few victories. My favorite game-winning moment so far came during a match earlier this week with Evan and another friend as squadmates. I was at one end of a long valley, while my squad engaged the enemy on a cliff above. Their firefight flushed the enemy down into the valley, where he took cover behind a supply crate in my line of sight, but a fair distance away. I took aim with my Longbow DMR, targeting the one small bit of the enemy I could see: his shin. The shot cause him to panic and run into the open, allowing me to easily finish him off and secure the victory. 

Chris Livingston: Pig mood

I reviewed Far Cry New Dawn, and it's mostly fun while not being all that much different from Far Cry 5. (Much shorter, though.) The best part is Horatio, the wild boar you can (and should) adopt as your primary (only) companion. I have 11 reasons why Horatio is the best but I bet there are many, many more. I love my big pig. You will too.

Tyler Wilde: Everything 76

Earlier today I absentmindedly combined two headlines as I read them, creating the phrase 'Dragon Age 76,' and I can't stop thinking about it. I'm doing it with everything: Metro 76. Stalker 76. Far Cry 76. Dark Souls 76. Borderlands 76. Resident Evil 76. Grand Theft Auto 76. Farming Simulator 76. I would play each and every one of those games. Whether or not you played or liked Fallout 76, what series would you like to see get the multiplayer survival treatment? There has to be one that would actually be really great, right?

THE LOWS 

Samuel Roberts: Crackdown returns

It's a bit disappointing to see Crackdown 3 arrive after so much time and be just okay. Maybe open world games moved on a lot faster than I thought they did? Back in 2007, Crackdown was the king of them all, in the early days of the Xbox 360 when roaming around an open world with a pal was a new thing. Now, it seems like the industry has left it behind a little bit. 

The Activision Blizzard layoff news was my true low of the week—I hope everyone affected by that news lands on their feet. 

Tom Senior: Overload

‘Ahhh there are too many games’ is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. I don’t know what twist of fate led to so many publishers releasing games during this month, and this unimportant week in particular. Here we are, stuck between a brilliant battle royale game, a fantastic remake of Resident Evil 2, a beautiful new Metro game, and BioWare’s massive jetpack game. Apex Legends will probably emerge the winner when the dust settles, but Metro will be there when I do my end-of-year mop up and catch up with games I missed. 

Fraser Brown: Eat the rich

Activision celebrated big profits this week while also laying off hundreds of people. Even in an industry where employees are often treated very poorly, the grotesque display of greed seemed shocking and cruel. So much money is being doled out, and it's all going to entirely the wrong people. It's exhausting, and unimaginably more so for those affected. 

There's a lot of appropriately righteous anger over it at the moment, but I worry it will fizzle out and it will just be yet another shitty thing a publisher did that we vaguely remember. But there's also been so much shittiness lately, with Riot, Rockstar and others, that maybe all this anger will swell up into a wave and knock everything down. OK, I might be getting carried away (I'm definitely not). 

Bo Moore: Sorry I touched your stuff

My low also comes from Apex Legends this week. I was squadded up with someone who seemed to really know what they were doing. He had the player stats of an already seasoned Apex Predator, and carried us through our first firefight. Things went south, however, when he went down in our next skirmish, though I and our third teammate were able to survive and eliminate the enemy squad. My teammate grabbed his beacon, so as I was looting the enemy bodies, I apparently also started rifling through his deathbox, swapping out my crappy Mozambique for his Peacekeeper shotgun. "DON'T TOUCH MY FUCKING STUFF YOU FUCKING <gendered slur>!!" he screamed into his mic. "PUT IT BACK YOU <slur>!!!" 

Stunned, all I could answer was a confused, "The fuck?" 

"FUCK YOU!!" he screamed, before leaving the match entirely.

First of all, I didn't even realize I was taking his stuff, but even so, there's no rule against taking your downed teammate's gear. If anything, upgrading to his superior gear would have given me a better chance to survive long enough to spawn him back into the game, at which point I would have gladly returned his precious Peacekeeper—if only he had asked nicely. Apex Legends is a game that requires teamwork, cooperation, and healthy communication (thanks in great deal to it's fantastic ping system). Berating your teammates for looting a body is hardly the best way to win.

Tyler Wilde: Early access taxes

Back in 2017, I noted that 'launch day' was no longer launch day. The idea that you could play a game in beta by buying an expensive package, usually with 'founder' somewhere in the name, was borrowed by big publishers. They began offering early access to their games with pricy special editions, first by a few days, then a week, moving 'launch day' up depending on how much you spent. That trend morphed again. Now, EA doesn't want you to buy its games at all, and instead prefers you subscribe to Origin Access Premier and pay a monthly rent. For that commitment, it'll let you play Anthem today, a week before those who bought it.

Access Premier is $100 a year, which is a good deal if you plan to play more than one new EA game this year, and just this year. But if you decide you like Anthem, just as an example, and want to keep playing after a year but don't care about EA's other games, you're stuck paying a subscription rather than simply owning the game. There's a pressure to move on, then, not to waste your subscription playing one $60 game but to play all of them, to be an EA gamer. I don't know exactly what this trend will mean long term, especially as experiments with cloud streaming advance, but it causes me intestinal discomfort. Games feel more ephemeral under this model, like they're supposed to expire in a year, such that getting in a week early is vital—get all the time with Anthem you can before it's onto the next thing! Play first so that others are left behind, so that you get the most value before the timer ticks down. It's stressful.

Chris Livingston: Far Cry Too

New Dawn is the first post-apocalyptic Far Cry game, and it's a shame Ubisoft didn't really lean into it. I guess I'd love to see a return to some of the systems of Far Cry 2 one of these days, and the post-nuke landscape of New Dawn would have been a great opportunity. Far Cry 2 had a small, hand-held map you had to inspect in real-time, very few vehicles, and weapons that would jam, break, and sometimes explode. That all would have fit well in New Dawn, but while the weapons look improvised they're just skinned that way, and they definitely never break or jam. The map is full-sized and the game pauses while you scroll through it. And there are vehicles everywhere despite an apparent war over fuel.

Feels like a missed opportunity to me, but on the plus side now that I'm done with New Dawn I guess I can just go play Far Cry 2 again. Malaria, here I come.