This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: PRE3

I'm not sure what happened this week—everyone decided to start announcing things again after a quiet January and February. A (perhaps surprising) sequel to The Division and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (which declared war on Roman numerals) headlined things, but we've also got two Valve stories, which is probably a record—a full reveal of Artifact and a statement of intent on making new games.

How's that for early March? Exciting stuff. It's really weird that this happened at the same time, but hey, it's always good to have new reasons to anticipate the future of PC gaming. 

Andy Kelly: Snap happy

I'm nowhere near far enough into Final Fantasy XV yet to decide whether I love it or not. I've played about three hours so far, most of which has just been spent arsing about. I'm perfectly happy ignoring the plot and just hanging out with the car boys, camping, going on road trips, and killing the odd weird horse. But what I'm certain I do love is the way Prompto takes photos as you play, and at the end of each day you get to look through them.

It's such a cool idea, and I love the way one of my buds is documenting our journey. Even at this early stage I have a nice collection of snaps, some taken by myself, but mostly by Prompto. And I love looking back at them, like sifting through cherished memories. I can only imagine what that'll be like when I actually make some progress and gazing back through time makes me all wistful and nostalgic. I’m cool with more games shamelessly nicking this idea.

Fraser Brown: Long Division

Ubisoft revealed the existence of The Division 2 this week, so I can finally stop pretending that I’ll revisit the first one. I ducked out early, but the Dark Zone—the lawless PvP area where players and squads murder each other over loot—has been calling to me ever since. It’s the source of all my favourite memories of the game. 

At launch the Dark Zone made up most of The Division’s end-game, but I spent most of my time there even when I was just getting to grips with the MMO. It was where you could get the best loot, but more importantly, it’s where all the best fights and tense standoffs happened. And betrayals. So many betrayals. I can’t count the number of times I’d be working with another Agent who’d then shoot me in the back the moment the opportunity arose. Friendship is fleeting in the Dark Zone. 

Whatever else The Division 2 does, I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of those kinds of treacherous shenanigans.  

Tyler Wilde:  Sea time

If you weren't sure what to do this weekend, I've got your answer: play the final Sea of Thieves beta. It's open to everyone this time, so you just have to hop over to the Microsoft Store (boo, I know) and search for 'Sea of Thieves Final Beta.' Even if you don't end up buying it, I guarantee you'll have fun for a day if you play with friends (you'll need the Xbox app open and it's a whole thing, but it does work). 

This is my high because, A) I get to make up more pirate rules (the list is getting long), and B) despite my objections to the Microsoft Store and Xbox app, I do appreciate how much actual testing Rare is running for this game. I've been noticing good changes each time they run another test, and while those changes may have already been built (they started with a limited build and have been adding more features with each beta session), it does feel like feedback is is being taken into account. The process of partying up and connecting has gotten a lot better since the first beta, for instance, despite warnings that stress tests may break things. I hope it's in great shape when it launches in full on the 20th, or at least in as good a shape as it can be given the state of the Xbox app.

James Davenport: I'm sorry, but

At the risk (guarantee) of sounding like an asshole, I told you all Rainbow Six Siege was good. I gave it a 90 way back when, a bit more forgiving of its technical issues than most, but I still stand by my assertion that it’s some of the most interesting competitive FPS design ever. And now that Operation Chimera and temporary Outbreak mode have hit, it’s only getting better. I mean, Outbreak is like an entirely new game attached to the existing one, and it’s free. The player count is higher than it’s ever been too, peaking at just under 180,000 concurrents on Steam a few days ago. 

I’m a touch smugly satisfied (relieved) that I wasn’t losing it back when Siege released, but I’m far more overjoyed to see it in such a healthy state. Siege was a big gamble, a departure from the fast pace and aggression of most popular shooters at the time, and proof that tactical hide and seek is just as thrilling as tag. 

Chris Livingston: Free ride

I know there's a lot to dislike about the announcement that H1Z1 abruptly went free-to-play a week after it launched—especially among those who spent $20 to buy it. 3,000+ negative Steam reviews over two days certainly indicate a lot of displeasure from a fanbase that's already endured a number of sharp turns during the development of Daybreak's battle royale shooter. 

I'm looking at a silver lining, though, which is that since the game is free, more people can try Auto Royale, which is pretty fun. You drive around like crazy and shoot players in other cars and blow them up, which is a refreshing change of pace from hunting through 100 empty buildings looking for a rifle scope and then hiding in a bush for 30 minutes. At least that's how I play battle royale. Your mileage may vary.