The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Chris Thursten: How do you solve a problem like McCree-ah?

On the whole, Overwatch’s latest update has done great things for the game. As Stefan Dorresteijn noted earlier in the week, playing in a new meta is really refreshing. Overwatch is fundamentally a game about team composition, so being forced to rethink rosters makes everything that little bit more exciting.

That said, McCree is becoming a problem. Not because he’s over or under-powered, necessarily, but because patch after patch he seems peculiarly resistant to balance. If Overwatch is a family, he’s the adult child still lurking in his bedroom well into his 20s: he needs to figure out what he’s for and GET A JOB. Is he a tank buster? Is he designed to control skirmishers? Is he a frontliner? Is he a sniper?

Figure it out, McCree. Everyone’s getting tired of your shit. Look at you! Have been up all night? What kind of time do you call this? Wait forget I asked.


Phil Savage: Casual concerns

Valve is slowly working to clean the casual fallout from TF2's competitive update. After launching a new casual matchmaking system earlier in the month, Valve has since removed the leaver penalty, and, most recently, introduced a vote kick system. Soon, according to a recent blog post, players will be able to specify what map they want to play on.

But even when all this is done, I still don't think the new casual matchmaking option is as good as the previous browser list full of official servers. When I last played, just after the new system was introduced, my first game was a slaughter. The lack of a team scramble option created an imbalance that the opposing team couldn't fight back from. It didn't feel good to win those matches. I'm sure it felt even worse to lose them. I just don't see what problem casual matchmaking is designed to solve, and I do see what the removal of official servers from the browser creates. And sure, there are still custom servers, but they're a wildly different beast.

I assume Valve removed official servers through fears they'd cannibalise the new casual matchmaking. I don't think that's the case. They're similar, sure, but serve a different enough purpose that both could coexist. If the server system isn't returning, I at least hope the matchmaking system is getting a lot of love in the immediate future. 

James Davenport: Headblander

Before I sound like too much of a grump, I like Headlander. It’s a charming, naughty side-scroller and a gorgeous conceptual homage to ‘70s sci-fi. But playing as a floaty head and attaching myself to robots isn’t as silly or fun as I’d hoped. Most of the robots are fairly similar, just different colors of the same sentry. Solving puzzles rarely requires understanding and utilization of different personality or body types to make your way through the world. The sentries just open doors of the same color, turning them into keys, essentially. There’s no playful social experimentation involved, which I might have unfairly expected from a Double Fine game. And beyond that, the ‘Metroidvania’-ness of Headlander doesn’t extend far beyond getting more health and boost. New abilities don’t change how I play in significant ways. I’m having a great time, it just feels more shallow and routine than I’d hoped. 

Joe Donnelly: My opinion, remastered

Urgh, remasters. It seems remasters are all the rage these days, and this week saw Darksiders join the ever-growing list with the announcement that the  first game in the series is getting a rehash

Remasters must please some players—most likely those who missed the game in question the first time round—but I struggle to see the point. And while there are some videogame remasters that have worked over the years, the common approach these days appears to be re-releasing a game that isn’t particularly old, with superficial ‘improvements’ tacked on that hardly change the original experience. They’re almost always more expensive than I reckon they should be (which is almost certainly why they’re A Thing in the first place), and they’re usually a stop-gap in the publisher’s release schedule. 

Which raises the question: do we need them at all? Maybe I’m just being grumpy—maybe I’d rather see game makers working on actual new games—but I’m not convinced we do. 

Chris Livingston: Fault-Tec

Another $5 Workshop DLC appeared for Fallout 4 this week, and I spent a few hours on it only to come away more than a bit disappointed. Maybe I overestimated it, but we were told we would be Vault Overseers and perform crazy experiments on citizens. Well, the experiments aren't that crazy, there are only a few to choose from, and essentially being the Overseer just means you're in charge of yet another settlement.

The settlement itself, at least, has potential. It's simply massive, a far cry from most of the overland building spots, and there are all sorts of new Vault-Tec parts and pieces to build with. So if you're still into Fallout 4's building scene, it might be worth getting—I'm definitely interested in seeing how people build their Vaults. In terms of being able to abuse your settlers with crazy devices? Eh. We've been doing that for a while now.

Tim Clark: Esports has an oversight problem

I don’t play League of Legends, but it’s such a phenomenon that I like to keep up with what’s happening in the scene. This week saw the latest chapter in the Renegades vs Riot saga, with the team’s co-owner and LoL caster/personality Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles giving his side of the story in the form of an exhaustive video packed with documentation relating to the disciplinary case which saw the team banned for apparent mistreatment of players, breach of ownership rules, and misleading Riot over player trades. It’s over an hour long, and I’m not about to start trying to unpick the merits of his evidence. But added to this recent ESPN story, which sought to lay out the timeline around the ban, it means we’ve heard a lot of detail from Renegades’ side, but almost nothing from Riot’s. And that’s a problem.

Esports, lest anyone be in any doubt, is big business and only likely to keep getting bigger. But one of many ways that competitive videogames differ from conventional sports is that the companies which make and own them also act as governing bodies, carrying out often complex disciplinary investigations, with potentially millions of dollars in sponsorship and prize money on the line for those involved. That being so, the lesson surely is that arbitration needs to be independent and open to scrutiny. Otherwise the information vacuum will only be filled by increasing mistrust and conspiracy theories. Given the money at play, and the fact that the likes of Blizzard and Riot are competitors, I struggle to see any of the currently mooted coalition-based authorities getting off the ground. So in that world it’s beholden to those developers to lay out why they’ve made rulings much more clearly than is usually the case. Operating in the shadows with no external oversight will only work for so long before one of these disputes ends in high profile litigation.