This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Evan’s best run is brought to you by gun-that-is-also-a-lightsaber.

Evan’s best run is brought to you by gun-that-is-also-a-lightsaber.

The Highs

Evan Lahti: Bullet time
Enter the Gungeon has been a delight. It’s a tough game, and your success (mine, at least) hinges on which of its many, variously useful guns drop for you, but it’s been great to dig into a Spelunky-style, Binding of Isaac-flavored game that plays slightly more on my strengths as an FPS fan but with more loot and progression than Nuclear Throne offers. Gungeon’s sense of humor mitigates its most taxing segments and your inevitable defeat, too—I particularly like the healing room where, in an irreverent reference to Zelda, a lady smashes a jar with a fairy in it over your head to top off your HP.

Samuel Roberts: Andromeda sighted
Old though it may be, it was nice to get a quick look at an early version of Mass Effect: Andromeda ahead of what will likely be a full reveal during E3 this year. It only gives us snapshots of the kind of story we’ve got ahead of us, but even just seeing a Krogan again or some laser fire got me excited about the Frostbite-powered new instalment.

After all, it’s been over four years since Mass Effect 3 was released. Empires have risen and fallen since then (in this game of Civ I’ve been playing, anyway), and the world is ready to see what such a rich sci-fi universe looks like in the modern age. This was a tiny snapshot, but I’m ready for more.

Phil Savage: Tokyo lift
Have you seen the trailer for Tokyo 42? If not, go and take a look. There's a bit with a cat.

Back? It looks good, doesn't it. I had the opportunity to check it out at EGX Rezzed in London yesterday, and I'm now extremely excited to see the full game. The developers are happy to admit that they're liberally lifting elements from other games. Because that 'inspiration' comes in the form of all of the best bits from many of the games I like, I'm not going to complain. There's a social stealth system that's reminiscent of Hitman, Far Cry-like outposts, GTA-style open world action, and a Monument Valley-esque aesthetic. Even the multiplayer takes the form of that hide-'n'-seek deception found in Assassin's Creed or The Ship. Somehow, a developer has taken all of the things I love and rolled them into a single package. This is definitely one to watch.

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Jarred Walton: Tesla P100 power
For most of the past six months, we’ve heard pundits telling us to “just wait until the next generation GPUs show up—they’re going to be amazing!” This week at the GPU Technology Conference, Nvidia dropped its Pascal bombshell in the form of their new Tesla P100, a GPU designed to accelerate compute and deep learning to new levels.

The new Pascal architecture promises higher performance, especially for scientific applications that need high precision, where the P100 is three times as fast as the best previous Tesla (K40). But there are applications where extreme precision isn’t required, like deep learning, in which case the P100 is able to do 21 TFLOPS per GPU. Again that’s about three times faster than Nvidia’s previous best, the M40.

We live in an amazing age of technological progress, and many of the things we take for granted every day are enabled by various forms of artificial intelligence. When you ask Siri or Google a question, it’s AI that converts your speech into text, and another set of AI that searches for an appropriate answer. It’s also AI that enables collision avoidance and other safety features in our vehicles. Faster GPUs will allow for better accuracy, and perhaps soon the AI will be able to look for the answers to questions we haven’t yet thought to ask.

Angus Morrison: The all-clear
I had a disagreement with Fallout 4 the first time I played it. I just didn’t feel the magic I usually associate with a brand new world from Bethesda. This week, I picked it back up, modded it to the hilt and started fresh, this time following the story instead of building a seven-storey death fortresses on top of Red Rocket. Lo and behold—the magic’s back!

I’m ecstatic to find myself enjoying the Wasteland. It’s like finding out there’s nothing wrong with you when you thought you might be seriously ill. By following the motivation I was given—to find my son—instead of wandering off like the world’s worst father, I found the game suddenly became consistent and more meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, there will be death fortresses in time, but the unfinished business was unsettling me.

I’m glad the crisis is over. I was getting a bit tired of people looking at me like I’d sprouted a second head.

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Tyler Wilde: Writing VRticles
Well don’t I look like an ass! Just a couple weeks after publicly whining about my jealousy of VR headset owners, our hardware editor Wes went and shipped me an HTC Vive Pre. Sorry to everyone I was commiserating with: I’m now one of the jerks whose Steam status has a ‘VR’ symbol next to it.

I was so excited when the Vive arrived on Monday that I put up a shelf just to hold it, and after five days I’m really happy to find that I’m still excited. After years of mainly trying out VR headsets at trade shows, each experience months apart from the last, I wondered if part of my fascination was due to it being a treat. When I actually have one all to myself, will I even want to use it? It hasn’t even been a week so I can’t soundly make that judgment yet, but so far so good: I’ve used the Vive every night and it still feels fun to put on. I’ve especially had fun in Hover Junkers, which I posted a review of today. I get tired after 30 minutes of play (I should really try using the rowing machine I never use), but I keep going back for more.

Next up, I’m going to write about working with a virtual desktop (not the most productive way to work so far) and take a tour of all the other VR games on Steam to see what else demands a story. While I’ll probably still play most games in flatspace, especially if I want to play something for more than an hour at a time, I look forward to finding out how VR fits into my life in games and out of them, and whether or not it’s a passing infatuation or a permanent wall fixture.


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