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We’ve played the PlayStation Classic, and it’s underwhelming •

We’ve played the PlayStation Classic, and it’s underwhelming •

We’ve played the PlayStation Classic, and it’s underwhelming

Mediocre emulation and an anaemic list of games – though there’s still some magic there. 

I first heard of it through a playground rumour; whisperings there was a machine that could run Ridge Racer, the game that had been wowing us all over the summer holidays at whatever low-rent seaside resort our families had dragged us to. And what’s more, someone knew a friend of a friend who had one – who’d imported one from Japan and had Namco’s polygon-rich racer playable in their own living room.

First contact came that autumn, in a friend’s bedroom on a 14-inch CRT that offered a small window into the future with WipEout, and the next few months were spent campaigning to get one for Christmas. And when it finally came, it felt like something else; more than a mere new generation, the first PlayStation marked the beginning of the modern era of gaming.

And so coming face-to-face with one in Sony’s offices, all these years later, is an emotional experience, like chancing upon an old friend. Strange how a little grey lump of plastic can prove so powerful to someone of a certain age, though even now looking at the original PlayStation it still looks like a relic from the future. And, just as it is when you return to your hometown after years away, it seems so much smaller than you remembered it.

There’s nothing by way of rewind feature, or anything much beyond barebones emulation. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt in recent years by the work of companies like Digital Eclipse, but the lack of options present in the PlayStation Classic is a disappointment.

Then, just next to the original PlayStation, is the PlayStation Classic, which is smaller than you might have imagined it. Some 45 per cent smaller, in fact, although it’s perfectly formed, an impressive miniature that looks like one of the originals had been left in a hot wash. It’s lighter too, of course, coming in at 170g – though lifting up the original console, it’s remarkable how light that feels compared to the unwieldy bricks of today.

The PlayStation Classic’s controller, meanwhile, is a 1:1 likeness of the original (and that’s the original original, remember – this isn’t the DualShock that was introduced in 1997, and as such it lacks rumble and those two analogue sticks). It is ever so slightly lighter in the hand, though that’s simply down to the fact there’s a slimmer cable protruding from it – and at that cable’s end is a USB A connector, itself protruding from a plastic nubbin that perfectly mimics the connector on the original PlayStation controller and that slots neatly into place on the console. It really does all look the part.

The console hardware itself has some neat functionality too. Around the back it’s powered by micro-USB, and there’s a single HDMI out, while on the top of the console the three buttons are all put to use. The power button is self-explanatory. The reset button throws you out of any particular game and into the PlayStation Classic’s main menu, while the eject button is used to change discs in games that are split across several CD-ROMs, such as Final Fantasy 7.

There’ll most likely be ways of stacking other games onto the PlayStation Classic once it’s out in the wild, and it’ll be interesting to see what’s under the hood – the belief is that the same silicon that powered the Vita and PlayStation TV is at work here, and a brief hands-on does little to dent that suspicion.

As a piece of simple engineering, then, the PlayStation Classic is a triumph; a perfectly adorable, shrunken down version of the original that would look just splendid on your shelf. It’s only really when you plug it in to play that things start to fall apart a little. The front-end is responsive if not exactly attractive – though its graphical stylings are at least period correct for the mid-90s games it’s hosting. There are next to no options – you’ll have the ability to enable a screensaver, tinker with power saving modes and language and… That’s it. There are no screen filters, and nothing to try and soothe the transition of these games onto TVs that they were never designed for.

The output is 720p, a logical enough choice given the majority of the games here are 244p and upscale fairly cleanly with small black borders either side of the image, but it can’t hide the fact that something feels off about how these games look and play. Getting the relatively crude 3D work of original PlayStation games to play nicely on modern displays was always going to be a tougher task than that faced than by Nintendo with its previous 2D-dominated Classic consoles, but the soft scaling doesn’t help its cause, and there’s noticeable lag – minimally so when playing a 30fps game such as Ridge Racer Type 4, but much more pronounced in 60fps games such as Mr. Driller or Tekken 3. They feel soupy in the hand – though that’s as much the fault of modern displays compared to the more responsive CRTs these games were designed for than anything else.

Some problems are more specific to the PlayStation Classic, though again they’re ones you can’t necessarily blame Sony for. The game selection is, to put it politely, anaemic, with titles that made PlayStation a household name – WipEout, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider – entirely absent. Part of the problem is also part of the original PlayStation’s pioneering; as arguably the first console of the modern era, it’s also one of the first bogged down with issues of licensing when it comes to music tracks brought in from elsewhere, or in the case of Gran Turismo with auto manufacturers. Getting hold of those licences again could be a pain – in some cases, it’s an impossibility.

The result, though, is that next to the stellar line-ups of the NES Classic and SNES Classic, it all feels underwhelming, and not exactly representative of the original PlayStation in its prime. This is, at best, a functional take on the mini-console phenomenon, and a cute stocking filler for the coming Christmas period – even if the price doesn’t quite reflect that. It most certainly is not a decent emulator, and far from the best way to play this (limited) selection of games.

For all that, though, and for the disappointing feeling that the PlayStation Classic is something of a missed opportunity, there’s still magic to be found here. Having messed around disapprovingly with the menus, I settled after an hour or so on Jumping Flash, that bizarre first-person platformer that has always sat awkwardly, brilliantly, between the soft abstraction of 16-bit games and the more recognisable, harder edges that the PlayStation was about to usher in, and all of a sudden I’m transported back to Christmas Day, 1995, and am filled with that same sense of wide-eyed wonder. The PlayStation Classic is far from perfect, then, a slightly murky window onto a historically important machine, but for all the missteps taken here, the original brilliance still manages to occasionally shine through.

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Warframe Fans Ask Developers To Avoid Crunch

Warframe Fans Ask Developers To Avoid Crunch

This year, game players have learned many uncomfortable truths about video game crunch. If what happened on the Warframe subreddit in the runup to the increasingly MMO-ish co-op shooter’s latest expansion is any indication, we’re starting to see players push developers to take better care of themselves, even if that means slower game releases.

Warframe fans have been eagerly awaiting the Fortuna expansion, which released today, since it was announced in July. Yesterday, on the eve of its release, a Reddit user Spacesheepie posted a Warframe-themed anti-crunch graphic resembling a workplace safety poster as a “gentle reminder” that the devs should prioritize their health over cranking out new content, even during the mad dash to get Fortuna out.

“Tenno Against Crunch,” read the poster, referencing the game’s player-controlled Tenno faction. “Crunch is bad for well being. Stress can lead to many health concerns including heart disease, depression, and premature death.” It also included a URL for the UK-based International Stress Management Association. The post got over 5,000 upvotes, making it one of the subreddit’s top posts of the past month. Additional messages of support quickly poured in.

The fan who started the thread told Kotaku that reports about extended overtime and other labor issues had inspired them to speak up.

“I guess what prompted me to do it is the recent stories of crunch from Red Dead Redemption 2, Telltale Games, Rockstar, etc,” Spacesheepie, who calls Digital Extremes their favorite developer, wrote in a DM. “I’m not sure if Digital Extremes has crunched before; one of the devs did mention they had crunched, but I don’t think it’s in the same way as other companies do, and it may be more optional. That being said, I do worry about them, whether they are working late for extended periods, and so on. Even if it’s out of love and passion of what you’re doing, you can still lose track and forget to self-care. I just wanted to let them know, whether it’s optional or not, that I and many others don’t want them to be in pain for a video game, ever.”

Other fans’ responses to the post—which Spacesheepie said they were not expecting, but are grateful for—paint a hopeful picture of changing attitudes toward crunch. While crunch was once a quietly accepted part of game development, greater awareness born of stories published this year has led to increased demand for video games created under humane conditions.

It’s by no means a unified movement just yet, and plenty of video game fans still seem to be just fine with the idea of bellowing demands into whatever digital megaphone they can find, heedless of the pressure those demands might put on already hard-working development teams (see, for example, the recent Diablo controversy).

Warframe’s community, too, exemplifies this duality. For the past few months, there’s been no end of complaints about a “content drought,” some accompanied by the nagging implication that the developers should be working harder. One fan in the anti-crunch Reddit thread who said they were a game developer themselves chimed in:

“I cannot hate a content drought if any new content would need to be introduced by crunching employees, so—to whoever reads my comments—please, please be supportive in times of content deficiency. In the end you want polished content that you genuinely enjoy, and that can only be done with a good amount of time, by people who are well rested and at their best.”

This is, at the very least, a baby step in a better direction. Spacesheepie would like to see things improve even more, and they think that starts close to home.

“I know DE isn’t special and that many people around the globe in all kinds of industries experience things like crunch, and I’m not elevating DE’s needs above those either, but I do have a soft spot for ‘em, considering how involved they are with their community,” they said. “They’re my favorite game makers, it’s one of my favorite games. How can I not think of them?”


Overlord is a Castle Wolfenstein movie in all but name, and it’s bloody brilliant

Overlord is a Castle Wolfenstein movie in all but name, and it’s bloody brilliant

There’s a scene in Overlord in which Jovan Adepo’s Pvt. Boyce, upon infiltrating a Nazi base situated on the outer reaches of an occupied French village, careens through a series of linear corridors, dodging soldiers and examining any eye-catching points of interest along the way. Eventually, he comes across one of his kidnapped squadmates, and hastily exfils him through a vent leading to the sewers. 

It’s a simple in and out mission that then repeats itself, albeit in a different matter, when Boyce returns to the facility to blow it up for good about 20 minutes later. Structurally, that seems like an odd decision for an action movie, which tends to feverishly jump from setting to setting purely for the sake of visual diversity, but Overlord is no ordinary action movie, taking its inspiration from both within and well beyond the realm of cinema. 

Boyce’s unit has a single mission; to enter the Nazi facility and destroy the radio tower planted on its peak, through whatever means possible. This idea of pursuing a sole objective within a finite area, or ‘stage’, will be very familiar to anyone who’s played enough video games before, especially when Boyce essentially ‘replays the level’, advantaged by the knowledge gained from his first infiltration to finish the job he originally started. 

And while we already knew Overlord would be wearing its video game influences proudly on its sleeve, what with all the Call of Duty-esque Nazi zombies running around in the trailer, this reverential mimicry of the medium’s rhythms and mores is precisely what allows the movie to stand out so well, despite a fairly generic synopsis.

Ever since Overlord was announced as a mysterious horror project from J.J. Abram’s Bad Robot production company, people immediately started wondering whether this was the next secretive instalment in the genre-hopping Cloverfield franchise. The answer is, no, Overlord is definitely not a Cloverfield movie, but that’s probably for the best, given the state that franchise has been left in after The Cloverfield Paradox. 

No, if Overlord is affiliated with anything, at least in all but name, it’s the long running Wolfenstein video game series, in which everyday American soldier “B.J.” Blazkowicz single handedly dismantles Hitler’s forces (sometimes living, sometimes living dead) from the inside out, one bloody murder at a time.The big giveaway is the plot. Nazis conducting experiments in a secret WW2 fortress, and it’s up to our ragtag team of hardened American soldiers to go in and set it all on fire? Yep, that sounds like the setup for a Wolfenstein game alright. It’s the first telltale sign of a movie steeped in influences from across the medium, from its exploitative tone to an unashamedly patriotic subtext.

It’s evident in the way in which Pvt Boyce manages to run, fall, and stumble his way through a barrage of on-screen action like a player in a scripted action scene, or how its characters not only often survive what should be fatal injuries, but come back even stronger than before. Oh, and the Nazis. The Nazis are the most video game Nazis seen in cinema this side of Indiana Jones.

Overlord’s Third Reich soldiers are painted with the kind of delightfully theatrical villainy that other modern war films have long abandoned in favour of more sombre depictions, but video games have always loved a pantomime bad guy, as proven most recently by Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, Sniper Elite 4, and Call of Duty: WW2. Overlord proudly follows in their footsteps. 

Make no mistake, director Julius Avery is very aware of how campy the movie can be, but Abrams’ latest collaborator embraces that kitsch wholeheartedly for a brazen faced, self-righteous flurry of guilty pleasure cinema. And Overlord really is one hell of a good time. It doesn’t have much to say, and it’s not particularly clever, but it is buckets of fun for those who can stomach their war films delivered with generous lashings of body horror and Tarantino-esque violence. 

More importantly, Overlord goes to show that the best video game movies are never the ones with an explicit license to their name. Forget the Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, and Warcrafts of bad movies past, it’s films like Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Edge of Tomorrow, and Wreck-It Ralph that really understand how video games can be adapted for the big screen. 

These movies, like Overlord, aren’t bound by the ill-suited plots and characters of any particular video game, but can instead steal liberally from the medium as a whole and mould it more holistically for a better viewing experience. More heartfelt paeans than haphazard cash cows, they’re neither pressured by the expectations of an already existing fanbase nor creatively constrained by pre-defined blueprints, and the results are often spectacular. Overlord is one of the best examples of that truth to date, proving that there is a way to break the bad video game movie curse after all, just not in the way many of us might have expected.  

What else are you looking forward to in cinema this year? Check out our choices of the best upcoming movies for the rest of 2018 and beyond.


Diablo: Immortal broke the unspoken rules of Blizzard, and BlizzCon

Diablo: Immortal broke the unspoken rules of Blizzard, and BlizzCon

Blizzard wasn’t ready for the immediate, and overwhelmingly negative, fan reaction to the announcement of Diablo: Immortal. And interviews after the controversial press conference indicate that the company may be confused about why fans are so angry.

“The way I’ve been kind of looking at the mixed comments is what those folks are really saying is they desperately, passionately want the next big thing,” Allen Adham, executive producer and Blizzard co-founder told Polygon in a previous interview. “So I actually think that those two items are being conflated … It’s pretty clear to us that there is a huge audience around the world that is gonna love this title. So hopefully we’ll get there.”

I disagree with this assessment, and it ignores the expectations that Blizzard itself has spent decades creating in its fans.

So what went wrong with this reveal? How did Blizzard mess up what should have been a fairly standard game announcement? Why is Diablo: Immortal such a bizarre shift for Blizzard, and why is it triggering such rage and anxiety in the audience?

You have to look at the big picture to make sense of all this, because there’s more logic to this situation than it may appear.

How Blizzard pitches its games

To understand Blizzard, you need to understand that it’s a developer that is known more for its execution on existing ideas than its original concepts. Blizzard takes games that people already love, and iterates on them with a focus on lore, character design and polish.

Blizzard doesn’t need to get to a genre first, it just needs to be able to do it better.

“Let’s take a game that we all love playing, do what we want to do to make it ours, just like we’ve done with every single game from the past,” Blizzard’s Sam Didier told Polygon in 2014. “Vikings was Lemmings. Rock and Roll Racing, name any of those car games out there. Warcraft came from Dune, so it’s the same thing with Heroes of the Storm.”

In this case, Heroes of the Storm was Blizzard’s attempt to create something like Dota 2 or League of Legends — games that actually spawned from Blizzard’s own Warcraft 3.

“It’s like, we take a game that we like and then we make our version of it,” Didier explained. “If we like it, it turns out that people like it as well.”

So that’s the format for how Blizzard reveals new games, and it’s easy to explain:

  • World of Warcraft: Blizzard does Everquest!
  • Warcraft: Blizzard does Dune!
  • Overwatch: Blizzard does Team Fortress 2!
  • Hearthstone: Blizzard does Magic: The Gathering!
  • Heroes of the Storm: Blizzard does Dota 2!

Diablo: Immortal isn’t the sequel that Diablo fans wanted, nor is it Blizzard taking a crack at an existing genre. Instead, it’s an example of an external company, NetEase, in this case, taking a crack at a formula Blizzard had seemingly perfected. Fans were at BlizzCon to see what Blizzard can do with the ideas of other companies, not what other companies can do with Blizzard’s ideas.

NetEase is collaborating with Blizzard on Diablo: Immortal, but Blizzard builds excitement by asking questions that don’t yet have an answer. What happens when Blizzard tries its hand at creating a collectible card game? We didn’t know until Hearthstone was released.

Diablo: Immortal asks what would happen if a third-party developer tries its hand at Diablo on mobile platforms, and that’s a question that has been answered many times in the past. The results have always been mediocre. We know what off-brand Diablo is like; it’s not a rare thing in gaming. Blizzard working with NetEase on Diablo: Immortal seems suspiciously like someone replacing the labels on store brand sugary cereal to say “Lucky Charms.”

It doesn’t help that the demo given at BlizzCon doesn’t live up to what we expect from Diablo.

“With Diablo: Immortal, it’s easy to feel like you’re playing Diablo, but it also feels like an illusion,” our own Ryan Gilliam wrote after trying the game. “It looks like Diablo, it sounds like Diablo, and it even plays like Diablo. And yet it feels like it’s missing the sense of satisfaction that comes each time you crumple a demon corpse in every other Diablo game. The soul of Diablo doesn’t feel present.”

Diablo fans are used to games that look like Diablo but aren’t as fun as the original; it’s almost a genre of its own on mobile platforms. But this may be the first time the fans have had to deal with a mediocre-looking game that’s actually called Diablo, and comes with Blizzard’s blessing.

The assumption being made, and being spread throughout social media, is that Blizzard is selling out its ideals for a chunk of the lucrative mobile gaming market, at the expense of the fans that have been there all along.

Steve Jobs said it first from

And perhaps the worst thing of all? It’s not on PC.

Why the platform matters

“We were like, ‘Oh, PC games. That is what we want to do. We love PC games. We are big PC gamers you know, and we are only doing these projects to kind of pay the bills, but we’ve got this great game idea,” former Blizzard North president David Brevik told IGN in 2017, talking about his company’s first meetings with Blizzard and bonding over doing console contract work to keep the lights on.

“We’ve pitched it to everybody,” he said. “We’ve been turned down, you know, 50 times, or whatever it is. Nobody wants to do this game because RPGs are dead, but we got this great RPG idea we would love to make some day.’”

That game became the first Diablo.

Blizzard is known for its PC releases, and Diablo games have always come to the PC and Mac first, to be later ported to consoles. Overwatch is one of the rare Blizzard games to be released on consoles alongside the initial PC launch. Hardcore Blizzard fans are, generally speaking, PC gamers.

You can see the confusion and, yes, hurt coming from a fan when he asks whether Diablo: Immortal will be playable on PC. The answer is no, there are no plans to bring the game to the PC. The fans, predictably, boo.

“Do you guys not have phones?” Blizzard developer Wyatt Cheng said in response. Not only did he misread the room with that question, he missed the point.

These folks have phones, and they probably love playing games on those phones. But Diablo was born, and made popular, on the PC. And now there will be a new Diablo game that looks better than Diablo 3, and they’ve just been told that not only will it not launch on the PC, but that there aren’t any plans to ever bring it to the PC.

Blizzard is once again breaking one of the core expectations the company has built across decades of game releases, and no one from the company seems to grasp why the fans feel hurt by this decision.

So what now?

J. Allen Brack, Blizzard’s new CEO, has to convince longtime Diablo players that Blizzard hasn’t begun to sacrifice its quality and long-term beliefs for profit.

That will be a challenge. Blizzard has risen to prominence by applying its strengths to existing genres, making sure that PC players are never left out of the experience and keeping quality high while competitors chase trends.

Diablo: Immortal breaks all three of those rules at BlizzCon; what happens with the project next will shape how fans perceive not just the game, but the company.


Which game have you spent the most time playing in 2018 so far?

Which game have you spent the most time playing in 2018 so far?


We’re closing in on the end of 2018, and as more and more big releases drop, we’re figuring out how best to spend our time playing games before our GOTY discussions formally begin. Looking back on the year, though, the PC Gamer team’s attention has been split across a whole bunch of different releases, some current, some from previous years.

This weekend, then, we asked the team to audit their various clients and figure out the answer to the following: which game have you played the most in 2018 so far? Let us know your answers in the comments below.

Phil Savage: Assassin’s Creed Origins, 69 hours (nice?)

Yes, Origins, not Odyssey. I have a nasty habit of letting the release of a sequel remind me that I never really played its predecessor. I’d put maybe four-or-five hours into Origins when it came out, and then left it on the backburner. Skip forward a year and everybody is getting very excited about Odyssey. I nearly skipped straight to it, but to be honest, Hellenistic-era Egypt just seemed like the more interesting setting. So that’s how I’ve spent a bunch of the last month: hanging out with Cleopatra, riding around deserts, and murdering elephants for no obvious reason. Good times. After I’d wrapped up Origins, I started on Odyssey, but, honestly, I think I’m Assassin’s-Creeded-out. Maybe when the next game arrives.

My second longest playtime in a game this year was Crusader Kings 2. Although that probably shouldn’t count, as I didn’t actually play it.

Samuel Roberts: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, 47 hours

This one really crept up on me. I finished every sidequest in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and beat the mediocre DLC, too, and I still can’t figure out why that collectively took 47 hours. I did spend a lot of time exploring every little bit of the Palisade Bank and poking through all the buildings, so maybe that’s where the time went. It’s pretty likely I played GTA Online for longer than this in 2018, but I can’t be absolutely sure of that. I’m certain Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will pass Deus Ex in a couple of weeks.

Even though you spend a little bit too much time stuck in the same beautiful Prague streets, Mankind Divided was a pretty satisfying immersive sim. I felt like its levels were broken down into digestible chunks, whereas Dishonored 2 is full of wide, open spaces where I always seem to get caught by enemies, even if it’s a far superior game generally. I also didn’t feel let down by the ending of Mankind Divided, or how incomplete the story is, and I think a lot of other people did. It’s unquestionably a better game than Human Revolution to me, which was more pared down than I remembered upon replaying it in 2016.

47 hours seems like long enough, though. 

James Davenport: Fortnite, over 300 hours

Editor’s note: James isn’t sure how much he’s played Fortnite this year. “Over 300 hours? Whatever it takes to fully complete three season battle passes and every challenge while hitting level 70 or so.”

I have no idea how long I’ve played Fortnite this year, but it’s what I’ve returned to over and over and over again. It’s not like I’ll decide to sit down and play Fortnite all night long, but a match here and there, at lunch or in the morning or another while I wait for my partner to finish getting ready all add up. It’s also a game I cover pretty heavily for work, which means dipping into Playground mode often for decent screenshots. It’s the seasonal arcs that keep me around. 

Fortnite is so far bereft of any real story, with cubes and rockets and space-time rifts somehow tying into the state of the world, but the constant change those in-game events carry with them make it one of the most fascinating games to check in with every week. New weapons like the double-barrel shotgun encourage ‘W-key’ aggression, weird new traps like the freezers force players to rethink movement and build fights, infinite glider redeployment makes for a much faster, mobile game—my most comfortable habits are gutted every time I play, and that’s what battle royale should do. 

Philippa Warr: Megaquarium, 42 hours

Apparently I have 42 hours in Megaquarium. How on earth did that rack up so fast? I mean, sure, there was all that tank tinkering and the whole fiasco with needing to entirely repopulate my attraction after forgetting to hire people to feed the fish. Also the whole spending hours with the game paused so I could optimise the visitor routes and… Wait. I see how 42 hours happened. 

Megaquarium isn’t actually the game I’ve spent the most time playing, though. It’s just the game where I can put a definite number to 2018’s playtime. Subnautica definitely eclipses it, I’m just not entirely sure how many of my total 123 hours came from 2018 and how many were from stints of base-building in the game’s beta period. I think I clocked up about 50 hours while doing the review and then about 10 more hours in the weeks after that? I put it to one side after that because I’d burnt out a bit, although judging by other games on playlist this year—Megaquarium, No Man’s Sky (which got an underwater update recently), Minecraft’s Update Aquatic—it’s fairly safe to say I’m not sick of the sea.

Evan Lahti: Rainbow Six Siege, 231 hours

Based on snapshots of my Steam profile, I had about 290 hours-played in Rainbow Six Siege at the end of 2017. After a lot of ranked play in the last month and the recent Halloween event, I’m at 521. [calculator tapping] That’s 104.2 viewings of Eat, Pray, Love I could’ve enjoyed in 2018, damn.

Siege is really good. Characters’ unique equipment (invisible poison caltrops, bear traps, one-way mirrors, a blowtorch, a ballistic shield that zaps people, drones that fire concussive blasts) empowers players to alter the map in creative ways, and I love how much it relies on adjacent skills like feinting, listening, and timing rather than merely your aim.

Tyler Wilde: Rocket League, 100-plus hours

Rocket League. Still. I’m at 531 total hours played, most of which came from two periods: right after it launched, and the past two years, when I discovered a group to play Snow Day with. There was a long break in between those periods, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever go back because the average skill level has gotten so high (you will never catch me doing a flip reset, but you will find me flipping through the air a good 10 feet wide of the ball). Switching over to a puck is what re-hooked me. I love the small, dedicated community that’s developed around Snow Day, as well as the emphasis on ground and wall play, where a great pass along the surface can be as exciting as an aerial off the wall. This year has probably accounted for over a hundred hours, and with Snow Day now ranked, I won’t be slowing down. Now you know why I talk about Rocket League so much. I will never stop.

Wes Fenlon: Monster Hunter: World

It’s been a monster hunter’s life for me, the last few months. For much of the year I bounced from game to game, not playing much for more than a few hours at a time. But I’ve gone deep into Monster Hunter, finishing the campaign and as many special events as I can catch. Recently, after getting back from a two week vacation away from my PC, I’ve started fighting the game’s tempered monsters, which are the big bad tougher versions of the beasts I’ve already slain. Gotta get those rare drops so I can take my armor and weapons to the next level! The amazing thing about Monster Hunter is how much time you can spend playing and enjoying the game with a weapon, before trying out another one that plays dramatically differently. In my 75 hours I’ve pretty much only used three weapon types: the charge blade, the dual blades, and the insect glaive. I think next I’m going to tackle sword and shield. Or maybe the longsword. Bring on Kulve Taroth. I’m ready!

The PC Gamer Club’s picks

We asked folk from the PC Gamer Club to contribute this weekend in our member-exclusive Discord channel, and below you’ll find some of their answers. There’s a lot of love for Subnautica.

Rocksolid 32: “Subnautica #1 followed closely by Euro Truck Simulator 2/American Truck Simulator (do those count as one game?) and then Two Point Hospital.”

Philip: “Subnautica. 84 hrs! (and completeted. My GOTY I think) After Subnautica, 74 hours in The Division and 65 in Yakuza 0 (I wanna go back and do some more in that one I think).”

Christmasface Jones: “For the year it has certainly been Quake Champions. 2018 has been a great year for the game with all the new maps, champions, and game modes.”

Terdog: “That’s easy for me: Forza Horizon 4, followed very closely by Elite Dangerous.”

Nick_Manley1987: “Either COD: WW2 or Destiny 2. May be a toss up.”


NPR Is Very Worried That Gaming Is Going To Turn Kids Into Nazis

NPR Is Very Worried That Gaming Is Going To Turn Kids Into Nazis

In journalism, no two things are more often and easily confused than “this wild thing is happening” and “this wild thing is happening, widely.” When the wild thing is, say, mad cow disease—an immediate threat to life— the problem of weighing particulars against a greater sense of scale is critical. Readers can gauge their threat levels and get on with things, or not. In mainstream coverage of gaming culture, the possibility of disaster is less immediate, but the problem of scale, lately, has become impossible to ignore.

Yesterday, NPR published an article titled “Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruiting Video Gamers.” It’s the latest, most exaggerated version of a gaming-flavored narrative woven by elite media orgs in an apparent attempt to explain the rise of right-wing extremism in America. This article claims that games “have become one avenue for recruitment by right-wing extremist groups”; to support this, the reporter opens her story with a tale of a 15-year-old Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player whose father, John—no last name given—was one day startled to see neo-Nazi propaganda his son had printed out.

“There wasn’t anything obvious to me at first because it’s common,” said John about gaming. “This is the norm for kids. Instead of hanging out at the drive-in they’re all online.” (John’s son had, he said, been communicating with Nazi terrorist organizations, which were apparently attempting to recruit the 15-year-old.) The end of the story—prepare for a guttural cringe—is this: “It took time, but lately, John says, his son, now 16, seems to have left these ideas behind. He’s playing fewer networked shooter games, and on his own, he has started attending church.”

“Video games are a hundred billion dollar industry,” the article intones.

The powder-keg idea that Machiavellian deviants are dropping into online shooters to spew extremist propaganda and convert measurable numbers of gamers—significant enough numbers that the public should be alarmed!—is irresponsible to report on without some solid shit to go off of. This reporter, like many before her, did not have solid shit to go off of.

Over the last two years, political articles in publications like Salon, the New Yorker, The New York Times and the Washington Post have been including small nods toward the idea that the radical right owes some noteworthy part of its prominence to gamers. It’s not an outlandish idea, to be clear, that there’s a pipeline between the gaming and extremist right communities. Any time spent on Twitter, Reddit, or 4chan makes it abundantly obvious that the online alt-right draws some of its heroes and shitposting tactics from GamerGate, an outrage movement founded in some gamers’ negative reaction to the presence of “SJWs” in their community. Right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos rose to prominence during GamerGate and subsequently transitioned into being an alt-right agitator; alt-right personality Mike Cernovich described GamerGate as “the most important battle of the culture war this century; hell, lawful-evil political figure Steve Bannon, who cultivated Yiannopoulos, raised money for a company that employed World of Warcraft gold-miners before moving to Breitbart, the hub of the alt-right. Taken even further, these celebrities’ viewpoints are the booming winds behind the sails of far-right extremism.

If you know anything about 2018, it’s that a lot of people are very vocal about abhorring political correctness, and that a lot of people are Nazis. Some of them are gamers. The existence of a shared language, and a shared belief system, does not mean that right-wing extremists are literally recruiting gamers to their cause—or at least doing so widely. It would be convenient if it were true; there’s just not much evidence that it is.

Yesterday’s NPR article, which attempted to make this case, was riddled with the sort of factual elisions one would expect out of propaganda journalism. On the basis of one real-life example and three interviews with apparent experts, the writer claims that gamers are getting plucked out of shooty-shooty games and dropped right into neo-Nazi forums. The most basic problem here feels beneath mention: inflating one anonymous father and his anonymous son’s journey through the bad net into an entire movement is preposterous. Had the reporter spoken to even two, three or four kids who had been rescued from the clutches of Fortnite extremists, it still wouldn’t have been enough. “Where,” one would ask, “is the sense of scale?”

This sort of lapse in research could be partially resolved by some rock-solid specialist sources. One of the author’s experts is a well-respected media manipulation researcher at Data and Society, an institute that studies online culture; another is a lawyer who represents game companies. Fine. The final and most influential source source for “Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruiting Video Gamers,” though, is a man named Christian Picciolini, a former skinhead whose Free Radicals project works to mitigate extremism.

Picciolini, who describes himself as a “former white supremacist leader,” came onto Kotaku’s radar in July, when he hosted a Reddit AMA. In it, he claimed that right-wing extremists go into multiplayer games to recruit vulnerable demographics into their cause. Intrigued, my colleague Kashmir Hill and I reached out to Picciolini to hear more. We were curious about the right-wing movers and shakers who could fit an entire political pitch into a Fortnite match.

When we asked Picciolini for evidence of his claim and an interview, he referred us to “the many who have experienced the recruitment” and attached a few screenshots of Nazi imagery in open world games like All Points Bulletin. He also forwarded a screenshot of the game Active Shooter, a school shooting simulator, which was pulled from Steam before its release. Another screenshot was from a YouTube video titled “Fag Jews” in which someone named AuTiSmGaMiNg played Call of Duty. It had 11 views.

A screenshot from a YouTube video titled “Fag Jews,” sent as corroboration for the idea that white supremacists are infiltrating games for the purpose of recruitment.
Image: Christian Picciolini
A screenshot from open world game All Points Bulletin
Image: Christian Picciolini

It’s hard to imagine that the blustering Picciolini has seen enough to make up for the NPR author’s otherwise sparse evidence, and if you have spent any time in an online multiplayer game, you know that some player-made digital swastika is as likely a product of some 12-year-old edgelords as it is of neo-Nazi propagandists seeking to turn the teens to their side. This leads to basic questions: Were any victims of the alleged conversion tactics interviewed? Any recruiters? If this is happening on a large scale, why haven’t any games journalists—and especially ones who spend countless hours each week playing online games—caught a whiff of this wild thing and reported on it?

NPR’s sources, at least as laid out in their report, simply do not provide adequate support for the claim that white supremacists are actively recruiting gamers on multiplayer games on a scale broad enough for anyone to be concerned about it. And to take it a step further, mainstream media publications claiming a clear pipeline between gamers and far-right extremists are buckling into a trope in normie games coverage that simply needs to end if anyone is going to responsibly cover the increasingly established gaming community: parental fear-mongering as journalism. It’s what turned the mainstream conversation around video game addiction into a hot-take circus of bad research and even worse interviewing tactics. It’s what’s completely distorted the scientific methods toward understanding whether violent games make kids more violent. And it’s the sort of thing that, in the ‘80s, led suburban parents to question whether their Dungeons & Dragons-playing teens were literal Satanists.

The NPR story’s author, who is a mother of two, wrote a book this year titled The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life. Reached out to for comment, she did not respond. When I asked Picciolini why he feels confident stating that there is a pipeline between gamers and far-right extremists, he said this:

“I receive emails or calls weekly from parents concerned that their young sons are beginning to use language aligned with alt-right and white nationalist ideologies, narratives denying the Holocaust or defaming Jews, discussing conspiracy theories related to George Soros. Parents tell me time and time again that they believe that they are being influenced while playing multiplayer video games by other people participating in those games. It begins by using language like “f*ggot” and “n*gger” to desensitize them, followed by memes, then young people beging [sic] to parrot the words until they are led to forums on gaming sites or 4chan and 8chan.”

Games don’t need to be defended: They are the product of multi-million-dollar corporations who often rely on shady labor practices to meet corporate sales goals. Big-budget games are going to sell great basically no matter what. Gamers don’t need to be defended, either: They aren’t under siege as a class of person. What does need to be defended here is the principle that anything worth reporting on should be reported on responsibly.

When fear-mongering moves into spaces that require rigorous investigative reporting and large-scale interviewing, it stumbles into the danger zone of modern journalism: “This wild, but unlikely thing is happening, widely. Please panic.”

Falling into such a tired trope of blaming gaming for the bad in the world is, at this point, more than a little boring. About 70% of Americans play games. That’s a lot of people; among them will be some bad ones, and some who try to recruit other people to their bad causes. Framed slightly differently, this raises the prospect that awful things are happening, and, worse, that awful things are happening to your child while they do normal things like play Counter-Strike. Awful things are happening everywhere, though, possibly moreso in the games industry, and if we’re going to make any headway in doing something about it, or at least letting people decide whether it’s worth doing something about, it’s essential to have the facts straight.


Fan-Made PT Remake Captures The Original’s Terrifying Scares

Fan-Made PT Remake Captures The Original’s Terrifying Scares

P.T, the demo for , has gained a deep cult following since its release and eventual de-listing from the PlayStation store after Kojima split with Konami. A new PC remake captures most of the experience for those who don’t still have it on our PlayStations.

The PC remake was made by Artur Łączkowski and was still available for download as of time of publication. It recreates P.T’s iconic looping hallway and, while it doesn’t use the same character model as the infamous Lisa, features a terrifying ghost that can strike at any time. It’s not the first remake to be made; games like PT for PC and other projects have sought to recreate the game. They have inevitably fallen claim to takedown requests from Konami. Spiritual successor Allison Road was announced back in 2015 but hasn’t released yet. If you’re curious how this plays, you can watch five minutes down below. Gosh, P.T. scares the shit out of me still…

P.T. has captured players’ imaginations ever since its 2014 release. Secret hunters were turning up new content for as late as a year after release, and the design heavily influenced Resident Evil 7’s own secret-laden demo. Consoles with the game still on it have been known to sell for extreme prices, although sites like eBay cracked down during the height of these sales. Last week, rumors abounded that a new patch disabled the game for good on all remaining consoles, but that was thankfully untrue. Łączkowski has expressed interest in a Silent Hill 2 remake, but it remains to be seen if that project will be squashed by Konami. (Which it absolutely will be.) If anything else, he seems aware that this remake won’t last long.

“Guys, if you didn’t done it yet, you can still play my P.T. Remake,” he said in a tweet. Do it ASAP before Konami shut it down!”


Black Ops 4 players won’t stop turning this SMG into a damn power drill

Black Ops 4 players won’t stop turning this SMG into a damn power drill

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 features a really cool tool where players can create their own custom paintjobs for their guns. Ideally, such a system would be used to create beautiful skins like this Nerf inspired sniper or this badass sidearm that reminds me of something I’d loot in Destiny 2. But instead, Black Ops 4 players seem obsessed with making the Saug 9mm uzi look like various brands of power drills for some damn reason.

The trend appears to have started two days ago with redditor johnny_no_smiles who first realized the uncanny likeness that the Saug has with the Bosch PSB 1800 LI-2cordless power drill. Everyone had a good laugh and thought it was a clever idea for a gun skin. But I guess there exists some kind of esoteric rivalry between drill manufacturers because not even a day later redditor HplusGaming chimed in with his own Saug drill lookalike but with DeWalt branding. “DeWalt makes quality drills, c’mon now,” they wrote.

The bit caught on, and over the last day several members of the Black Ops 4 subreddit have contributed their own versions of the Saug 9mm, presumably each repping their favorite brand of power drill. The comments of each of these posts is filled with players repping their favorite brand. “Milwaukee is 1000 [times] better tho,” wrote ‘lets-trythis-again.’ Of course, being the internet, that just painted a target on this poor soul’s back, as other commenters promptly stepped in to say he’s wrong and that, in fact, Hilti makes the best drill—or so I thought.

“Hilti uses electronics that can only be programmed by the factory, and can’t be fixed be service centers,” argues one redditor. “Even then, Milwaukee’s hold up better in every tool class.”

“Bitch please, Milwaukee is absolutely professional grade,” a different one fires back. “You got no idea what you’re talking about.”

Meanwhile, every six hours or so, a new thread appears on the subreddit with a Saug 9mm redone as a different brand of tool and the argument reignites all over again. Black and Decker, Hilti, Makita, Milwaukee, and even Ryobi are all represented. And knowing how internet jokes work, I bet this is just the beginning.

Still, what’s troubling is that I’m actually in the market for a power drill and after skimming all of these comments I still don’t know which one would be the best purchase. But hey, the silver lining is that the next time someone respawns behind you and murders you so quickly you don’t even know what happened, you might get a good laugh when you realize they’re dual-wielding Bosch drills.


Our highest review scores of 2018 so far

Our highest review scores of 2018 so far

This week we’ve started discussing our GOTY picks for 2018. Since we first published this list in July, so many great games have arrived on PC—enough to fill the first two pages of what you’ll read below. Here you’ll find a mix of returning series, indie games, console titles that have finally made the journey to PC, and much more. We’ll update this list again before the end of the year, but you can be pretty certain that some of these games will figure heavily in our GOTY awards.

Football Manager 2019

Our review (90%) | Buy it: Steam

“Combine all of this with last year’s dynamics system and overhauled medical and scouting systems, and Football Manager 2019 marks another impressive stride forward for the all-encompassing footie management simulator. The long-serving series is the best at what it does, and will be forever judged on its incremental changes year-on-year. Not every annual update is a leap, but this instalment dazzles with both its headline features and a multitude of second tier improvements.”

Verdict: Football Manager returns with a kitbag full of new and overhauled features. It’s the best at what it does, and FM 19 is the best it’s ever been.

Bad North

Our review (78%) | Buy it: Discord

“If you can stomach the harsh consequences for failure then Bad North is a great little strategy game, perfect for playing on a break or in short bursts. I keep restarting in spite of the failures and the resets, so that probably speaks volumes for how compelling it is. There’s just something about watching those little sprites batter each other that keeps me coming back. At least until I burn my house down.”

Verdict: Mostly delightful and sometimes punishing, Bad North is a fun alternative to more complex strategy games.

Return of the Obra Dinn

Our review (90%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

“Return of the Obra Dinn is a stunningly clever thing and one of the best puzzle games on PC. It not only presents you with a vast, complex, and interconnected mystery to solve, but trusts in your intelligence enough to let you do it yourself with almost no hints, markers, or guides interfering in the process. Few games have this much confidence in the player, and it’s a deeply satisfying experience as a result, even if I did occasionally feel like I’d hit a dead end.”

Verdict: A beautifully constructed and powerfully atmospheric mystery that you really have to work to solve.


Our review (88%) | Buy it: Steam

“Wandersong might be the most heartfelt platformer that I’ve played since Night in the Woods. And while I don’t think its message is as specific or revelatory, it’s still a worthwhile and clever exploration of its themes, and a reminder that there’s joy in the act of play.”

Verdict: “I listened to Wandersong’s soundtrack while writing this review, and I’ve been happily jiggling my leg throughout.”


Our review (79%) | Buy it: Steam 

“Exapunks is a two-coffee game, one that requires focus and alertness. Even then, there’s a hard limit on how good I’ll ever be. I feel out of my depth, like a smart dog who graduated puppy school and has been put in a physics class. Infinifactory and Opus Magnum remain the Zachtronics games I’d recommend to people, but if you aced both of those and are ready to graduate, Exapunks is the next level.”

Verdict: Exapunks is a hacking game that will make you feel like a genius or an idiot—sometimes both in quick succession.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

Our review (81%)| Buy it: GOG 

“Thronebreaker’s scenario variety is the crucial final element that makes it feel like time well spent, even as I approached the 30-hour mark. It’s too light on systems to be a fully fledged RPG, and too unbalanced to be robust and challenging card game. But through a great story, surprising, enjoyable encounters, and a new spin on The Witcher’s world, Thronebreaker carves out a niche that’s well worth your time.”

Verdict: A captivating story and varied card battles ensure this light-touch RPG remains entertaining throughout its lengthy campaign.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Our review (90%) | Buy it: Steam, Fanatical, uPlay 

“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is enormous and beautiful, and it effortlessly ties action, stealth, sailing, faction control systems, mercenaries, and cultist hunting together into one cohesive game that, even after 50 hours, I want to keep playing. Odyssey is a lot more than just another Assassin’s Creed, it’s an RPG of unparalleled scale supplemented by satisfyingly layered and deep progression systems that each play their part in bringing ancient Greece to life.”

Verdict: Though the main story suffers because of it, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a remarkably massive RPG held together by a web of satisfying pursuits.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Our review (78%) | Buy it: 

“It can be hard to remember that this is the series that redefined the online shooter just a decade ago. Black Ops 4 is what it says on the back of the box, and little more, but the weapons are fun to use (particularly Prophet’s shock rifle, which never gets old) and its lighter, faster take on battle royale is best-in-class, at least at this early juncture for the genre. So even though nothing about it is surprising, this year’s CoD still gives me what I want after 15 years of blasting through the series: all-adrenaline, with guns that are a joy to use. That’s good enough for me.”

Verdict: A quality-made but unsurprising multiplayer FPS that offers refined versions of the current most popular modes and top-tier shooting.


Our review (83%) | Buy it: Origin 

“You can’t ignore FIFA 19’s obvious and sizeable qualities. Depending on your threshold for corniness, you could argue it’s worth it for The Journey Alone, and although PES feels like the more organic, spontaneous and subtle game of football, EA Sports’ latest effort isn’t far behind it. However, the significant new features feel a bit thin on the ground this year, and that shouldn’t be ignored.”

Verdict: Maintaining an almost impossible level of polish across its many modes, FIFA 19 might not eclipse PES 19 on the pitch, but it demonstrates its worth via The Journey.

Forza Horizon 4

Our review (89%) | Buy it: Microsoft Store 

“The best thing I can say about Forza Horizon 4 is it’s worth enduring the pain of the Microsoft Store for. But where Forza Horizon 3 quickly established itself as my favourite racing game, FH4 isn’t quite as noticeable a step up. It’s still an incredible sandbox, with a consistently satisfying loop of fun and rewards, but its differences won’t be apparent until the weeks and months to come, and the success (or not) of its seasonal event structure. What’s already here is beautiful, entertaining and polished, but it’s not yet clear if it can maintain the promise of the festival that never ends.”

Verdict: Unless you’re looking for a hardcore sim, Forza Horizon is still the best racing series around.

The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep

Our review (84%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

“I’ve sunk about 40 hours into The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep so far, and I’m not ready to hoist my ‘Saved the World’ tankard just yet. It’s a really big game. But even though I have yet to dispatch the latest and greatest threat to the city of Skara Brae—and the greater world of Caith, because the adventure goes far beyond Skara Brae’s walls—I am happy. This is the dungeon crawling adventure I’ve been waiting for.”

Verdict: An old-fashioned game in a shiny new package, The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep is a worthy addition to a classic series.

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Our review (86%) | Buy it: Steam, Fanatical

“It’s a pity that its moments of light relief sometimes strike the wrong note, and that later chapters introduce more far-fetched ideas that sit awkwardly next to the more sober character work. Yet these aren’t ruinous by any means: Valkyria Chronicles 4 has the narrative depth to match its tactical smarts, with enough small refinements to outrank its predecessors.”

Verdict: Combines robust storytelling with consistently inventive, surprising missions. 

Destiny 2: Forsaken (DLC)

Our review (86%) | Buy it: 

“It had a lot of mistakes to correct, and between an engaging campaign and an engrossing endgame, it’s managed to right almost all of them. I’m coming up on 100 hours logged in the expansion and I don’t even feel close to done, nor have I slowed down a bit. My friends and I have been burning the midnight oil and playing almost every night, which would’ve been unthinkable before. After a precarious first year, I’m finally enjoying Destiny 2 again. It feels good to have it back.”

Verdict: A fantastic course correction that makes Destiny 2 worth playing again. Here’s hoping the momentum lasts.

Frozen Synapse 2

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam 

“Frozen Synapse 2 is not a game of dice rolls or chance. Luck isn’t meant to be much of a factor. It’s about running the very same simulations your opponent is probably running too and then trying to get inside their head and figure out what they’ll do with that information. Just like in chess, it’s about seeing a good move and then looking for a better one.”

Verdict: Frozen Synapse 2 has plenty to offer with its campaign, but again, this sequel is at its best when playing against other fallible humans.


Our review (86%) | Buy it: Steam 

“So some of its systems are a little obtuse or would benefit from a bit of post-release tweaking but none of that got in the way of me properly losing myself in Megaquarium’s little world. The building is simple but fun, letting you shape your venue, but ultimately not distracting from the main draw: curating and caring for the fish.”

Verdict: A charming watery theme park management game where fish are friends, not food. Until they eat each other or you forget to feed them.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Our review (84%) | Buy it: Steam, Green Man Gaming

“The balance of puzzling, exploration, and action has always felt a little off to me in this modern incarnation of Tomb Raider, leaning a little too heavily and frequently towards the latter. But Shadow shows impressive restraint, rarely using combat as a crutch and focusing more on what makes this series special: namely, raiding tombs. And the tombs here are undoubtedly the star of the show, and some of the best in the series. 

Verdict: A greater focus on raiding tombs, and massively improved stealth combat, make this one of Lara Croft’s best modern adventures.

Two Point Hospital

Our review (87%) | Buy it: Steam, Fanatical 

“While Two Point Hospital does cover a lot of familiar territory, it doesn’t feel like it’s been rudely dragged out of the ‘90s. If you’ve been offering up stethoscopes to Hippocrates’ ghost for a new Theme Hospital, you’ll find it here; but if you’re not craving that fix of nostalgia, Two Points Studios’ spiritual successor will still keep you up to your elbows in corpses and icky illnesses until the wee hours of the morning.”

Verdict: Two Point Hospital is a brilliant management game, regardless of nostalgia.


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