This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Samuel Roberts: Good robot

I suspected earlier this year that Titanfall 2 might join the recent renaissance of first-person shooters with great singleplayer campaigns, and I'm delighted to hear that's the case. At Gamescom, Respawn made it sound like they were treating the design process in a game jam kind of way to find out what a Titanfall 2 campaign should look like—and it seems that's resulted in a 6-8 hour gauntlet of ideas that feels more inventive than we could rightfully have hoped for.

Check out Chris's review-in-progress for more insight, and come back early next week for his full verdict on the online multiplayer. 

Andy Kelly: Blast from the past

I haven't loved a multiplayer shooter for years. In fact, the last one I really got deep into was Bad Company 2. And, honestly, I wasn't expecting much from Battlefield 1. I didn't get on with 3 or 4 at all. But I thought I'd give the new one a shot, and I'm glad I did. It's the most fun I've had shooting people on the internet with imaginary guns for a long, long time.

Why? Well, for one, I find modern military stuff deeply boring. All that advanced tech just feels cold and lifeless to me. So the fact that BF1 is a festival of rusty tanks, bayonets, and clunky bolt-action rifles immediately makes it more interesting. I love how muddy and brutal it is too. It feels like a proper dirty, gritty war. Especially the sublime St. Quentin Scar map.

Obviously the people who experienced it for real didn't think it was all that great. But Battlefield 1 is so ludicrously detached from reality that I don't associate it with the real conflict at all. It's just a daft military toy box with period hardware. So I don't feel too bad about getting so much entertainment out of the misery of millions. It feels good to be invested in another multiplayer shooter, and I'm glad DICE decided to go back in time again.

James Davenport: Honorable mention

As a games writer, knowing as much as you can about big games on the horizon is generally a good thing. The more informed we are about a game, the easier it is for us to discern what’s news and what isn’t. But with Dishonored 2, I’ve been trying to avoid the media cycle (don’t tell my boss). I want the systems and levels to surprise me as much as possible, and trailers aren’t afraid to show revelatory chunks of whatever they’re trying to sell. This last Thursday, just about two weeks from Dishonored 2’s release, I finally caved. I got to stream a section of the game with two of the game’s creators, Harvey Smith and Dinga Bakaba, and hoo-boy, is it looking good. 

You can watch the stream and read my impressions to form your own thoughts, but if you can’t be bothered (please be bothered) then know that Dishonored 2 is doubling down on everything that made the first game such a fun, stealthy science lab. Two playable characters with unique powers and branching upgrade trees for each, a more nuanced morality system that gives each guard a story, and dreamy, dense stealth environments—I have a good feeling about this one. 

Joe Donnelly: Thinking thrillseekers 

I absolutely adored Bullfrog's Theme Park in my younger years (no, I can't believe it's 22 years old either) and was an equally big fan of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series before it veered spectacularly off track. As far as my hopes are concerned, much rests on the shoulders of spiritual successor Planet Coaster, and I've been consistently impressed with what I've seen so far. 

Just weeks away from its November 17 launch, the latest developer diary explores what Frontier Developments has dubbed Guest Brains—a reference to the sophisticated AI its park goers harness as they make decisions within your fairgrounds. The trailer is only a few minutes long and should be watched in its entirety, however I cannot wait to track individual groups around my sites, observing their behaviours, habits, what they like, what they don't and how I could improve their experience. Reading that back, I'm quite aware that makes me sound like a bit of a creep, but if credibility is key to successful simulation games, Planet Coaster looks like it's on the money.  

Tom Marks: The fault in our Star Citizens

Following Chris' lead, I finally got to play Star Citizen. Amazingly, beyond all the “is it a scam” hand-wringing and the various development controversies, there is actually a playable videogame to experience. It's free to try until the 31st, and Chris made me want to. So I did. 

Here’s what I found: Star Citizen is broken, unfinished, buggy, and runs like utter trash on even the strongest computers I tried. It is also one of the coolest games I've ever played. It's far from done, and I don't plan on returning until it's much closer to being finished (I generally don't play any early access games), but the core of what is there is staggeringly impressive. Most notably, the complete lack of any sort of load screen once you are in the game. 

I jumped onto a server with some friends, walked out of the spawn space station, and up into a giant space ship—the interior of which was as large and complex as some FPS multiplayer maps. While I was looking around, we hyper jumped to a different space station, which grew in real time through the window as we got closer, then one of my friends EVA'd out into space and waved at me through the glass. I left the ship, floated to a landing platform, and walked inside, without ever seeing a swirly wheel telling me to wait. It all just worked, and it felt amazing.

That said, it's not really much of a "game" yet. There's still so much missing, but the faults in what's playable now feel more like missing features or technical tasks that need to be completed rather than fundamental problems with the game's concept. It's a massively ambitious project, so it's more than fair to remain skeptical, but finally playing Star Citizen sure made me hope Cloud Imperium can pull it off.

Evan Lahti: Battle-tested

Jarred's thorough analysis of Battlefield 1 hardware performance revealed some surprises (DX12 has no impact?), but mainly it was a ton of good news: BF1 runs smoothly on a wide variety of hardware. That's what we suspected, based on how the game has been received, but most of us aren't playing the PC games we own on half a dozen different hardware configurations.

To toot our own bugle: I'm excited that we're bringing more of performance analysis articles to you, whether that means sussing out Mafia 3's issues or seeing if Microsoft can walk its DX12 talk in the latest Gears of War. Look forward to seeing the most demanding games put through their paces regularly on PC Gamer from now on.

PC Gamer

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