This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Battlefront 1

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: No campaign in Battlefront
The old Battlefront games had dubious single-player content that was little more than a rebranded version of the multiplayer maps with some cutscenes around it—the new Battlefront drops even that and only functions in multiplayer. I think it’s a bit of a missed opportunity, more because it’s been so long since we’ve any kind of Star Wars single-player experience rather than my desire to blast through a five-six hour campaign of scripted setpieces. We’ll see how much longevity there is in the online modes, but charging £40/$60 for a multiplayer-only FPS only makes sense if it’s the sort of competitive experience we still want to play after a month.

Tom Senior: Prepare to cringe
This week’s low is almost too rubbish to write about, but this seems like a good place to laugh/cry about it together. MSI launched this advert for a mini-PC featuring a patronising “even an air hostess can do it” tone, some painful overdubbing and a reckless disregard for the proper use of thermal paste. It’s awful. It’s hilarious. I love the shot that attempts to show how “compact” the PC is by showing how it barely fits in a suitcase. I love that they pack it into a suitcase with no monitor, keyboard or mouse. It’s a terrible advert for a mini-PC, but an amazing advert for a good gaming laptop.

Divinity Slide

Phil Savage: Kickstart my enthusiasm

There's nothing like a Kickstarter campaign to slightly dampen my enthusiasm for a project. That happened this week with Divinity: Original Sin 2. I'm sure the eventual game will be great, but first we've got the whole crowdfunding process to endure. I'm not even sure why they need one. I get why, for instance, GRIP—the Rollcage successor that's currently searching for funds—needs to raise cash to exist. But Divinity: Original Sin was a huge success, and will soon be released on consoles where it'll probably be a huge success again.

In a statement, studio founder Swen Vincke paints the D:OS2's Kickstarter campaign as a creative decision—a way to get fan feedback during development. But you can do that without charging people upfront. It's called forums, and we've had them for decades.

Chris L.: Et tu, tutorial?
My low this week is tutorials, but honestly it's probably more about me and how I'm never, ever happy no matter what because I'm an impatient grouch. I started playing an Early Access space survival game called Empyrion, which has quite an intricate crafting system but no tutorial on how it works. After blundering around for a while, I left the game to watch a 30 minute Let's Play, which was quite informative on the basics. Thing is, after watching the first half-hour of the game, I wasn't really left with the desire to then play the first half-hour of the game for myself, going through the exact same motions I had just watched. So, I quit.

Next I tried a space trading game called Cosmonautica, which has a robust tutorial. A little too robust? It's the kind where instead of simply presenting on-screen instructional text there's, like, a peppy tutorial character who chats to you in a friendly manner to set the mood instead of just telling you what to do so you can start playing. I found myself too impatient to even sit through it, so I quit.

Next, I took another stab at space survival with Interstellar Rift, which also didn't have a tutorial. Again, I wandered around the interior of a ship trying to figure things out for myself, and then I thought about watching some videos, but eventually I decided to go for the hat trick and I just quit. See? Tutorial? No tutorial? Doesn't matter. I'm impossible to please.

Rising Thunder Slide

Tyler Wilde: Fighting anger
Some games make me madder than others. Rocket League, for instance, doesn't make me mad at all. I don't care if I lose 10-0. Not mad. Having fun. Rising Thunder, however, can make me fume. It’s how fighting games are designed. It’s why the word 'salty' is associated with them.

In most fighting games, when you score a hit, you're given the opportunity to score a second hit. You can do this for as long as you can sustain a combo. If you're really good at it, it's like holding someone down and slapping them, and it's intensely frustrating to be on the receiving end of. It reminds me of being the extremely ticklish kid I was (I'm now an extremely ticklish adult) and being held down by my older sister, gasping for air, unable to speak or escape. She wasn't trying to be mean—I was laughing, after all—but I felt helpless and angry.

Rocket League almost never takes away control. The worst that can happen is that you'll get bumped into a few times, or blown up and then tossed right back into the game. I don't mind losing because I'm always standing up (figuratively), always trying to score another goal, always in control. And no matter how much the other team is dominating, the game is always a little messy, with unexpected bounces and accidental plays.

Playing Rising Thunder against a better opponent, by comparison, is like trying to beat up a swarm of bees while wearing a straightjacket. I don’t fault it for my own stress and frustration—it’s doing what fighting games do—but I do have to limit how much I play to manage the stress. It's different when I'm playing fighting games against friends, in the same room, and we're sort of all rooting for each other—Street Fighter IV is all friendly fun. The experience really changes when I'm fighting a player I can't see, and I wish I knew how to stay relaxed even when I'm getting crushed.

Wes Fenlon: 'Killer' networking features on motherboards are a waste
Too often 'gaming' branded hardware is actually a complete waste, more marketing buzz than innovative design. And from our testing with an Atheros Killer network interface compared to a standard Intel one, there's no gaming performance to be gained. In fact, we found that they underperformed Intel networking and often cause users more problems. There might be some small advantage to being able to shunt unimportant network tasks to the wireless adapter when you're gaming via Ethernet, but the truth is, most gamers know not to run intensive background downloads, anyway. And that hand-off via software can cause its own issues. If you're motherboard shopping, don't make Killer networking a priority.