This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Chris Livingston: Frod'oh!

Shadow of War has been delayed until October. That's a bit of a bummer. Games are delayed all the time, and I'm in favor of developers taking as much time as they need to get a game right rather than releasing something early just to hit a deadline.

I'm just a little down because I'm not seeing a whole heck of a lot coming out this summer that I'm super interested in (Shadow of War was supposed to be out in August), and the end of the year is always so jam-packed with games, as it is. James' time with a demo sounded cool, and I was looking forward to playing it sooner rather than later, at a time when I'd have a bit more, well, time. Shucks. 

Evan Lahti: Say a prayer

I haven't gotten around to finishing it yet, but I've enjoyed what I've played of Prey so far. The setting is inspired (a creepy, busted, but also elegant space station, replete with portraits of Space JFK), and the intro doesn't waste time pulling you into the premise, as Tom Francis explains. So it's sort of bumming me out to notice that, according to SteamSpy, 'only' 250,000 people have jumped into what I essentially see as a third- or fourth-coming of BioShock or System Shock, games that we hold up as classics. 

Building on my low from last week—the layoffs at Io and the uncertain future of Hitman—it's concerning that bigger-budget games like Prey and Hitman that might have a great focus on original storytelling, art, or a specific style of play but don't necessarily appeal to a massive audience in the way that Overwatch does continue to struggle. Maybe it's a consequence of all the otherwise good parity that digital distribution has brought us—Stardew Valley can draw millions because everyone competes for space and attention on the same platforms, rather than on a Best Buy shelf, as PC games did 10 or 20 years ago. I hope we won't see reluctance on Bethesda and other publishers' part to fund projects like Prey. 

Samuel Roberts: Bleak house

I reviewed the new horror game Perception this week, in which you play a blind protagonist navigating an old house that tells you the story of its previous residents via ghosts. Sadly, I found it got boring pretty quickly, and one of its big scares is creepy dollies, which I found disappointingly generic. The game's a little dull outside of some decent writing and voice-acting, which is a shame, because the premise is neat.

Maybe I'm just too picky when it comes to horror games, but the presence of creepy dolls was one of the reasons I didn't play Layers of Fear a while back. Horror games should dig a bit deeper for their imagery than stuff you feel like you've seen a thousand times. I watched contemporary dark fairytale The Neon Demon this week, and it was disturbing in a bunch of refreshing ways, exploring the idea of beauty and youth being exploited and stolen by dickheads in Los Angeles (that's not an official synopsis, by the way). It's uniquely disturbing, and I'd rather games found new ways to freak us out rather than relying on the staples of haunted house fiction. 

Tom Senior: No justice

A petty complaint from me this week, but one you may share. As the working day neared a close I decided to download Tekken 7 for some fine post-work fisticuffs only to discover that this game about individuals punching each other in small arenas is 58 gigabytes large. 58! Either the download contains the most detailed rendition of Heihachi’s hair-spikes ever seen in a Tekken game or, as Samuel suggests, it’s all uncompressed CGI videos. If that is the case I wish games would give me the option to download the game without the useless gubbins attached.

I wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place if Injustice 2 was on PC. I enjoyed the bonkers story mode in the first game and would love to do it all again with some of the nuttier, more obscure heroes that star in the sequel. I’ll never have the skill for Street Fighter, but these laid-back brawlers are just my speed, perfect for a Friday night knockabout with some friends.

James Davenport: Why didn’t you play Thumper

OK, so in my high I said I took a break from my computer. It’s true, no lies. You can trust me. What I didn’t say was that I played through Thumper again on my Nintendo Switch (and watched 20 hours of Twin Peaks) while I was back in Montana. I’m completely unaware of how Thumper sold, so I’m not worried about that. It’s so good that it’s more valuable than money anyway. My problem is that after giving it another five hours, I’m angry it wasn’t your game of the year. It’s incredible, damnit. Thumper was my personal pick for 2016 and it’s also yours now too. Too bad. I feel sorry for you, but mostly for the people sitting next to me on the plane. My hands generate a lot of sweat and after a few levels of Thumper, things get straight up moist. I made a pool in my lap because Thumper is your favorite game ever made. Now go play it already, please 

Phil Savage: Burnt Out

Danger Zone sounded like my jam, based on my love of the older (sadly console only—what do you mean emulation, I don't know what you're talking about) Burnout games. Burnout Revenge was an absurd, pure arcade racer full of over-the-top charm, and its crash mode was part puzzle, part ridiculous physics sandbox. It was glorious. Danger Zone, despite playing almost exactly like Burnout 3: Takedown's crash mode, doesn't feel glorious. I actually found it quite boring.

It doesn't take much to get me swept up in the majesty of destruction, but Danger Zone feels sterile. That's partly due to its setting, on simulated highways in a big warehouse, and partly because its destruction is incredibly limited. Cars mostly just bump into each other—there's just no drama or intensity. It's a passable, even competent series of challenges, but I never felt excited by the action.

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