PC Gamer

Each week PC Gamer s writers stumble out of the snow, gather by the fire, and recount tales of the horrors they ve seen. (Plus some nice stuff.)

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Metal Gear rocks on PC This week I saw Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes running at 4K on Andy Kelly s PC, while he was reviewing the excellent port for us. Look, the framerate might ve been a bit rubbish running on his GTX 970, but just for the detail on Snake and the weather effects it was worth it. Konami s price point for the game at $20/ 17 was very well-judged, I think, and to sell Ground Zeroes for even less as part of the opening of the Steam sale is even better. I picked up Ground Zeroes and Revengeance for under $20 this week. If this is Konami s way of doubling down on its commitment to PC, I commend them. A fantastic port, and the promise of The Phantom Pain next year—all we need now is a simultaneous release with the console versions, as well as ports of the older games, and Metal Gear s home will be on PC from now on. 

Chris Livingston: Farming Stimulator While I suspect Facebook won't buy it for $2 billion, it's still nice to see another niche gaming gizmo appear: plans for a Farming Simulator controller are in the works. It'll feature a steering wheel-turning knob and a side panel with a loader control stick and programmable buttons. Some virtual farmers out there are going to be very excited.

As a fan of oddball sim games, I hope to see more speciality controllers in the future. I definitely could have used a specialized controller when I pretended to be a San Francisco bus driver, maybe something with a ticket dispenser built into the dash and a defogger switch. When I was a tow truck driver it would have been nice to have had a controller with a few levers on it, or at least a dedicated switch for calling my insurance agent. And, when I made the poor decision to to run a circus, I definitely could have used a custom controller with a single button that read "Do Not Run A Circus" on it. Coulda pressed it immediately and played something else.

Wes Fenlon: Durante rules on Final Fantasy XIII Whenever I can get Durante to lend his expert analysis to PC Gamer, I consider it a good week. I loved his critique of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, because it highlighted the performance issues of the ports and actually explained what causes those issues. His analysis of Dark Souls 2 earlier this year explained why that game was a great PC port, and it warmed my heart to see From Software learn so much, and so quickly, after the first terrible Dark Souls port. The FFXIII games perform more poorly than Dark Souls 2, and offer far fewer options.

I hope that by pointing out these issues, publishers like Square Enix will see that PC players care about options and performance and expect a certain level of quality that's worth investing a bit more time and effort to achieve. Valkyria Chronicles outperformed Sega's expectations in just a few days on Steam, and you can bet it wouldn't have sold as well if it hadn't been a fantastic PC port.

Andy Chalk: Larian Goes to Canada Larian Studios dropped some unexpected news on Thursday: It's opening a new office in Quebec City. That's a big step for a small studio from Belgium, but one it's able, and in a way forced, to take thanks to the success of Divinity: Original Sin. The hit RPG was an ambitious undertaking but studio boss Swen Vincke has his sights set even higher, saying in a blog post that his goal is to create increasingly "dense, highly interactive worlds" that offer a level of freedom approaching that of pencil-and-paper RPGs.

I've been a Larian fan for years, and so I can't help but feel some amount of sympathetic trepidation at the prospect of such a big, bold move. But I also admire Vincke's determination to seize the opportunity that's presented itself, and to be perfectly honest I love the whole "little guy wins big" angle of its success. Larian is my kind of studio, making my kind of game, so it's exciting on a personal level to see that resonate with such a large audience.

Tom Marks: They see Notch rollin , they hatin I don t care what any of you think, all y all are haters anyway. When I heard that Notch, creator of Minecraft and newly made billionaire after selling to Microsoft, had bought a $70 million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills out from under Jay-Z and Beyonce I was absolutely ecstatic. That s incredible. That s the most amazing and hilarious piece of news I ve possibly ever heard. Who cares if it s over-priced, over-sized, and overseas? The dude has $1.7 billion dollars and, until this moment, has been nothing but humble.

Ok, technically it s $1.63 billion now, but even when he was only a plain ol multimillionaire he wasn t flaunting it. Just look at his rig from four months ago. Notch bottled lightning with the success of Minecraft, and then made all the right decisions to keep that success rolling. He made his own fortune and has actively tried to stay out of the limelight since.

He s only a celebrity because the internet liked him and the character they made him out to be. I, for one, wish him very well and hope he s happy in his giant mansion with his giant candy wall. Do I hope uses some of that money for good? Sure, but it s his money and nobody is allowed to judge him for what he spends it on. Also, now that he s in LA, I am eagerly awaiting Notch photo bombing the paparazzi and the surely inevitable reality show. 

Tim Clark: Is this seat taken? Hopefully you ve been enjoying the hardware guides we ve been posting since the site relaunched. There are plenty more planned for the new year, including some substantial rig-building stuff. In the meantime, though, I ve been testing chairs for a couple of weeks. We ve written about standing desks and why sitting can be pretty bad for you recently, but I ll be damned if my butt is going to go unsupported by conventional furniture. So I ve been looking for the best chairs at a variety of prices, with an emphasis on comfort and support over extended sessions. (Though do try to have an hourly stretch. Yes, yes, I know, I m not the boss of you…) So far one seat feels close to revelatory. Which is to say my back no longer hurts like Satan is trying to insert a USB stick into my spine the wrong way up. The full results will be published in mid-January, but I think it s safe to say the chair isn t over yet.

THE LOWS

Chris Livingston: Witcher switcher In regards to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red made an announcement this week about a new playable character, Ciri, which is great news: she looks and sounds like a badass. Still, every time I think about the series, I get focused on the one thing that makes me less interested in playing it: you can't design your own personal version of Geralt. We've heard that you can style his hair and beard a bit in Wild Hunt, but that's not nearly enough for my tastes. Not nearly!

Am I just spoiled by the character customization in other RPGs, like your Dragon Ages and your Elder Scrolls and your Mass Effectseses? Maybe. But being able to put your own personal stamp on your character's looks is an important aspect in role-playing, in my mind nearly as important as tailoring their skills and abilities. I wish The Witcher would finally get on board. On board!

Samuel Roberts: A port in a storm I love Durante s ongoing port analysis work for PCG. This week he took a look at the release for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and the updates made for FFXIII that enabled some pretty basic graphics options, and it s as I suspected—even with the improvements in visuals, the framerates continue to disappoint. Here s why that sucks from my perspective: when I reviewed FFXIII and gave it a fair and low score, I penalised it due to the quality of the port. I want Square Enix to keep releasing Final Fantasy games on PC—but I want them to be better than the console versions, not worse. The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy can t be played on PS4 and Xbox One so these console versions will only collect dust, but on PC they will be around forever. So why not release ports that can stand the test of time? I get the sense the improvements made to the visual options are a gesture of wanting to get things right, but there s still some way to go.

Andy Chalk: Assassin s Creed: Unity patch delayed It's easy for me to be dismissive of the Assassin's Creed: Unity debacle because I don't actually play it, but the delay of the fourth patch to the troubled game earlier this week was infuriating. Not because of the extra wait—bravo to Ubisoft for not shoving something out the door solely to meet an arbitrary deadline—but because of the statement that led into it: "Rigorous quality control is of paramount importance to us, and your feedback over these past weeks has indicated that it is important to you as well."

It is perhaps the most contemptibly ridiculous thing the publisher could have said at that particular moment in time. If 2014 has taught us anything, it's that quality control is most assuredly not of "paramount importance" to Ubisoft; Unity is obviously the poster child of a launch gone wrong but Watch Dogs, Far Cry 4, and The Crew—that is to say, just about every major game it released this year—suffered from a varying amounts of damaging bugs. We all fall into slumps now and then, and maybe Ubisoft's annus horribilis was just a (long) streak of (incredibly) bad luck. But telling the world how committed you are to quality control when you're struggling to fix the patch to fix the game that's still a mess after three prior patches doesn't make you look conscientious. It makes you look silly.

Wes Fenlon: Sportsfriends, minus Bach Sportsfriends was supposed to arrive on the PC aaaages ago, but it's just squeaking onto the 2014 calendar with a release today. Now we know at least one partial reason for the delay: despite their best efforts, the developers haven't been able to get Johann Sebastian Joust's PlayStation Move controllers to work on the PC. And, according to the devs, they'll never be able to. On the bright side, Joust works on Linux and OS X, which is as good an argument for SteamOS as I've heard yet. But it's a shame that one of the highlights of a really unique local multiplayer package won't be available to the majority of PC players. Ah, well. There's always Hokra.

Tom Marks: Boldy too scared to go I want to play Elite: Dangerous. I really do. I want to get completely sucked into that universe, make my way through the stars, and learn to master the controls of my ship. But I am too scared to do it. Elite just seems so big and imposing that I feel like I d never be able to get a foothold. Its scope is both exciting and intimidating. I d love to take part in that experience, and I don t think I d be bad at it, but there s something about knowing the first 20 hours of a game are going to be learning the basics that scares me away.

I m probably painting the experience with too broad a brush, and I m honestly a little bit ashamed for not steeling myself and diving headfirst into Elite. I ve been watching livestreams of other people playing and it looks simple, but then I ask myself how long it took that person to make it seem easy? Why are they doing that thing they chose to do over any of the other countless options they have? Where would I even begin? I don t doubt Elite will envelop me eventually, but it might take easing into it with my friends to not startle me away.

Tim Clark: Haters The whole now you see it, now you don t… Oh, huh, it s back saga that went on with Hatred on Greenlight this week felt like an unedifying episode for Steam. I also suspect it only stores up a problem for Valve further down the line. Someone initially decided the game s content crossed the lines of taste and decency, and therefore had no place on the service, but later that same day the civilian slaughter sim received a reprieve, seemingly after an intervention from Gabe Newell himself.

My read on this is that Valve doesn t want to position itself as moral arbiters of what s acceptable in terms of violence. Presumably so long as the material doesn t breach any laws, the firm is willing to host it. But isn t it odd, then, to be coy about sexual content? I imagine the developers of the (not especially sexy) intercourse- em-up Seduce Me, which was pulled from Greenlight in 2012, would have something to say.

As for Hatred, I m not sure refusing to host it would have qualified as censorship, as the angrier commenters immediately claimed. Running a publishing platform doesn t oblige you to provide a home for every game in existence, much in the same way as deciding to throw a party doesn t mean you re obliged to invite the neighbourhood nutcase. (Related: I haven t been invited to *any* parties this holiday. QQ.)

I think the real issue, for Valve, is that the idea of taking a zero touch approach to this stuff isn t tenable. It s easy to come up with increasingly extreme game concepts until you arrive at one which no company would rightly want to be associated with distributing. What we saw this week was Valve struggling to decide where that line is going to fall. (Aside: Just me, or does the animation in Hatred actually look quite slick? Pity whoever s doing that couldn t have found something, y know, not vile to work on.)

PC Gamer

Each Friday PC Gamer s editors venture into the opinion mines, hoping to chisel out nuggets of raw, shining, truth. Ugh, you ve got truth all over your hands…

THE HIGHS

Chris Livingston: Sky-O-Stocked: Infinite One of my favorite early-access games, Space Engineers, is planning to take the "space" portion of its title a bit more seriously. Much like actual outer space, Space Engineers is eventually going to be infinite, practically. In a blog post by Marek Rosa, Founder of Keen Software, he lays out the details of an upcoming Exploration feature:

"The exploration feature will add a practically infinite number of ships and stations to the game world, so there will always be something new to discover, explore, acquire and conquer. You can imagine it like this: you are traveling in some direction and there is an asteroid, so you decide to check it and see if there s something in its tunnels, in its proximity or on its surface. Or you just fly through empty space and boom, a lost wreck shows near you."

It would take quite a hefty PC to render countless ships and asteroids, so they'll only be generated if you're in their vicinity, and drop out once you've moved on. What's more, Rosa is asking the community if they'd like their custom-made ships and space stations to be used in this infinite universe in exchange for adding the creators' names to the game's credits. They're polling the community now to see if they players are on board, and at the moment, more than 90% of players are currently in favor of using community creations rather than procedurally generated ships or hiring new designers for the task.

Personally, I'd say combine all three of the options: hire the best builders from the community to make new ships and see if they can also come up with a solid random ship generator. Either way, the idea of getting in a ship and doing unrestricted space exploration sounds exciting to me. My current space station is such a shoddy, poorly-planned embarrassment I wouldn't mind rocketing away from it and never returning.

Evan Lahti: Epic gets busyFortnite is real! Seemingly. Alpha sign-ups for the game were being offered all the way back in April, and Epic has finally opened up its ambitious Minecraft-like survival and building game up to testers. It's been so long since we've had something new from engine-maker Epic, and with this an a new Unreal Tournament on the way I think we'll have at least two highly-moddable games on the horizon for next year.

Tim Clark: Sir, when a man is tired of London… Earlier this week I found myself reaching for an appropriate image to convey extreme leakiness. A collander? Too obvious. The roof of my old flat which used to gush during any major rainstorm which, living in Bath, meant always? Too personal. I needn t have bothered. I should have just said leaky like Ubisoft , because right now, among major publishers, there are none more leaky. And so it was that with Assassin s Creed: Unity still being frantically patched into respectability, news broke of the next game, Victory, which we now know will be set in Victorian London.

To which I say hurrah and huzzah. I ve been banging on about how a fog-shrouded London—all stovepipe hats, Hansom cabs and Jack the Ripper slayings—would be an amazing backdrop for the series for years. Will the game be any good? Probably. I say that on the basis that whilst III was a dull old drag, IV was one of my favourite games in recent years. Given that Unity has been a dip on the graph, it ought to mean Victory is a glorious upswing. If only for reasons of nominative determinism. As to whether Ubisoft leaked it on purpose, I would say absolutely not. I don t think hinting at a brighter (and, uh, foggier) future while people are struggling with what they ve just bought in the present is likely to mollify anyone. Nonetheless, for London alone, Victory s loose-lipped reveal is my high.

Samuel Roberts: Syncing on Big Ben This is a contentious one, because the reaction I ve picked up on to the Assassin s Creed Victory s announcement is either, not another one! or fix Unity first! Both fair points, there are too many (I tend to skip years with the series) and Unity is still subject to ongoing updates. But as someone who lives in the UK and is familiar with the Victorian era through a) boring school history lessons in which I was likely daydreaming about Civ II instead of actually working and b) Alan Moore s From Hell, I thought that Ubi s interpretation of London looked amazing in the leaked screens for Victory.

The smoke rising above the skies, the slightly exaggerated colour palette so it looks ever-so-slightly steampunk-y. And hey, environmental design and art direction are elements of Unity that most people agree are still pretty impressive, so I see little reason to doubt Ubisoft s ability to get London right here. The rest of the game? Not sure I can vouch for that just yet.

Phil Savage: Keep on Shovellin According to its developer's Twitter account, Shovel Knight has sold over 300,000 copies. I'm pleased because, coincidentally, I started playing it this week. It's brilliant; almost surprisingly so. I'm usually pretty cool on 2D indie platformers. There are over 70-gajillion available, but only a handful I really like, let alone feel compelled to complete. Braid, Super Meat Boy, Bit.Trip Runner 2, Spelunky, and now this.

It's great because the controls are perfect—as precise as is necessary for a Duck Tales-inspired pogo-ing platformer. It s also great because the challenge is pitched just right. Die, and you lose gold. But rather than lose it permanently, it'll float around the site of your demise—giving you the chance to go and get it back. It's one of those clever Dark Souls lessons that desperately needed to filter into other genres. Death isn't a thing to be punished; a lack of progress and improvement is. Great, too, is its size. Shovel Knight is filled with secrets and hidden surprises, inviting you to keep pushing further into the world map. I think I will.

Chris Thursten: ML-GG WP GO NEXT MLG's return to Dota 2 amounts to more than just another tournament. It's a subtle but significant recalibration of the competitive scene, and unlike most of these announcements it affects amateur players too. They're incorporating the MLG Pro Point system with JoinDOta's own ladders, creating a coherent way for teams to measure their progress.

While those big prizes will almost certainly go to top-tier teams, a system like this allows for greater upsets and more mobility. The lower tiers have needed something like this: a bit of money and muscle behind the concept of a year-round ladder. Dota's in-built team matchmaking doesn't amount to much, and community-generated equivalents are low-impact and isolated. This deal marks a step towards something more permanent, and I'm pretty excited to get my team involved.

By 'involved' I mean 'languish in the starter bracket for another season', but hey. It's still good news.

THE LOWS

Chris Thursten: What s going on, strip lights? Are you okay Sure, sure. Deus Ex has a new engine. There s a new game on the way. It looks pretty. I get it! I m excited too. No series represents PC gaming quite like this one, and so on. We asked for this.

I look at that single screenshot, though, and I think: what s up, strip lights? Why are you hiding in the corner like that? Are you okay? Are you nesting? That s not a very orderly way to arrange yourselves. Oh god. Is somebody else nesting in you? Because that sounds like something that a Deus Ex protagonist would do. Did a cyborg gather you all up, stack you in the corner, and then squat in you, brooding like a big motherly trenchcoated cyberpunk partridge? This seems like the most likely explanation for why you re like that. I hope you re okay.

This is the most significant videogame problem I have had this week.

Samuel Roberts: GTA V pulled by Target, K-Mart in Australia Two Australian retailers have pulled GTA V from shop shelves this week—I should point out these are the next-gen console versions, though I expect the PC version to get a similar reaction when it releases. This comes in response to a petition about violence towards women in the game. I don t endorse all of the horrendous things you can do in GTA V—indeed, some of the first-person kills added to this new version in particular are brutal to the extreme and even make me uncomfortable, but I don t see how pulling it from shelves solves any kind of problem. I should also point out that these first-person murders can be, on occasion, hilarious.

Raising awareness about objectionable elements in a game like GTA V is more than fair enough, and indeed, is healthy in that it educates consumers about parts of the game that they may not be comfortable with. I don t think taking it off shop shelves is the best response, however. Not that it will matter on PC—most people will just download it on Steam anyway. But this is what ratings boards are for, and consumers should be trusted to make their own decisions.

Chris Livingston: Broken For Ages The second half of Double Fine's Broken Age adventure game has been pushed from 2014 to early next year. While I'm all for games to be released when they're ready, rather than being rushed out the door to hit an arbitrary date, I suffer from what I like to call "A Stupid Forgetty Brain," in which details of games I play quickly begin to slip from my memory into a soupy, indistinct fog. Already, I've begun to forget what I did in the first half of the game. There was a spaceship, or something? And I ran around in the clouds for some reason? I'm worried that by the time the second half of the game is finally released, I'll have absolutely no memory of the first half, and I'm starting to wish I hadn't begun playing until the whole thing was finished. Yet another peril of paying for a game before it's done.

Phil Savage: This is a low Not really. This is totally a high that, through a bit of linguistic trickery, I will magic into a low. Shhh, don't tell the others.

We've recently had three great gamejams: the Procedural Generation Jam, 7DFPS and Indies vs PewDiePie. Between them hides a ridiculous selection of delightful things. Nothing this week has made me laugh as much as Infini-Quest did. Not even Super Wolfenstein HD, although that did come pretty close. Then there are games like Photobomb—a well executed game mechanic and a pretty effective statement of the potential dangers of trial by social media. Or the endless investigative challenge of The Inquisitor.

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a low. So: there are too many of these experimental delights to reasonably try. Who knows how much great stuff we've missed?

Tim Clark: Elitism Uszaa, Riedquat, Diso, Orerve… Lave. If you re old as balls, like I am, then those names will mean something to you. They re planets on the short range map of the system you arrive in when you boot the original Elite. I was reminded of them, and my own decrepitude, at a pre-release event for the new Elite this week. There I got to play the game on both a 4K monitor, and using a DK2 Oculus Rift. Why is this a low? Certainly not because of any issue with the game, which feels like a worthy modern spin on one of the most important games in the canon. No, my sadness, is based on the fact it reminded me that, unlike Wes, I still haven t sampled the newer Crystal Bay prototype.

That sadness was compounded by the fact that I m unlikely to anytime soon. Elite: Dangerous goes into full release on 16 December, whereas Oculus Rift s production model has a tentative release date of 2015 . Which feels pretty loosey goosey whichever way you look at it. What I am certain of is that the Rift is how I want play the game. In my hands-on/eyes-in time with Elite I didn t experience the dreaded nausea, but did feel the deliciously Cronenbergian rush of the new. It feels like something properly different, which even an ultra hi-res monitor can t hope to compete with. So my low is also really a high, which means, like Phil, I ve cheated. Unless you count my own rapidly failing body as a low. Which I probably should.

Evan Lahti: Sad birthdaysOn its 15th anniversary, Quake III needs some love. Not every game can live forever, and we shouldn't be too rough on id for Quake Live's underwhelming history—if anything, it suffered from being one of the early adopters of free-to-play among FPSes. Still, with the resurgence of competitive games in general, and CS:GO specifically, you have to feel like there should be more excitement around a classic like Quake III getting a content boost.

PC Gamer

I love Assassin s Creed. Yeah, I know. To some of you that ll be like admitting I'm a serial killer. But I do, even though I ll be the first to admit that it s in dire need of a refresh. By committing to a sequel every year, as well as regular spin-offs, Ubisoft have stretched their flagship series way too thin and the strain is beginning to show.

So while I ve played and enjoyed every game so far—except AC3, which was the abyss—I can t help but feel that its potential is being wasted. Yearly sequels have bled many a great series dry, and Assassin s Creed deserves better. So here s how I would change it. You know those present day bits everyone hates? I actually don t mind them, which should prove that this is all coming from a place of love.

A smaller teamTen studios worked on Assassin s Creed Unity. Ten! This is the very definition of too many cooks. The best manager in the world couldn t get that many people, from all those different time zones, to work efficiently together.

The result is a general feeling of inconsistency. Sidequests like AC3 s homestead and Revelations godawful tower defence feel like the were made by a team working alone and then shoehorned into the game—which they probably were.

Assassin s Creed would benefit from a smaller, more focused team. And I don t mean small in the indie sense—because you do need huge amounts of people to make blockbuster games like this—but I mean smaller than ten studios.

The series also feels designed by committee, and I think it needs the leadership of a strong auteur. A Ken Levine or a Hideo Kojima who will doggedly pursue their personal creative vision. Just thinking about how many Ubisoft suits the lead on an Assassin s Creed game has to keep happy is making me feel dizzy.

Longer developmentThe reason so many studios work on these sequels is because they re massive, and they have to do a new one every year. Ubisoft is a business, and businesses exist to make money. They have shareholders to appease, and making games on this scale costs a fortune. But this is having a negative impact on their quality.

Unity was a mess of bugs and frantic patching. The mission design gets noticeably sloppy towards the end of almost every entry in the series, presumably as deadlines begin to loom. And assets are frequently recycled between games.

Ubisoft should adopt the Rockstar model. They release a new Grand Theft Auto every 3-5 years, taking as long as they think they need. In comparison, Assassin s Creed games feel increasingly mass produced, like they re rolling off a conveyor belt.

Look at what Ubisoft achieved with Unity in a couple of years. Now imagine what they could have done if they had another two. I can understand Call of Duty sequels being released every year. They re dumb, flashy, six-hour action movies. But historical epics like Assassin s Creed deserve more time to be crafted and polished.

A new templateIt s fine for sequels to share the DNA of other games in a series, but Assassin s Creed has taken this to an extreme. It s utterly formulaic, recycling the same missions over and over—even the ones no one likes, like tailing and eavesdropping. Those ones have even started showing up in Far Cry, which is just baffling to me.

New features may be added, like AC3 and Black Flag s brilliant ship combat, but the games still largely stick to the set menu: arbitrary collectables, hay carts, sync points, hiring 'dancers', sneaking through bushes, disabling alarm bells. I think it s time to create a new standard. Sticking to this formula makes churning out yearly sequels easier for the developers, but as I said, that needs to stop too.

Worryingly, the Assassin's Creed Victory shots (well, I say shots, but they're obviously just concept mock-ups) already suggest the new game is recycling some old ideas. We see the new hero atop a sync point and the rope-swinging is straight out of Black Flag. But it's too early to say. Hopefully Ubisoft Qu bec are using this framework to do something different. It's heartening to hear that they've already been working on it, in Ubi's words, "for the past few years."

Think biggerThere s a running meta-commentary in recent Assassin s Creed games about sinister Templar corporation Abstergo using DNA memories to create mainstream entertainment products. The databases are filled with humorous notes about dumbing things down to broaden the appeal.

Assassin s Creed is mainstream entertainment, but I wish Ubisoft had loftier goals for it. They treat their games like products, which cheapens them. Whether it s overpriced special editions or the microtransactions in Unity, the company makes it clear, constantly, that they want your money. They do, naturally, and that s fine—but do they have to be so damn shameless about it?

Ubisoft makes Assassin s Creed games like Michael Bay makes movies. They create blockbusters designed to sell millions, and that s their primary goal. But imagine they made an Assassin s Creed like Stanley Kubrick made a film. As a piece of art. Something culturally important. The series has that potential, buried deep somewhere, but it ll never manifest as long as they re using it as a gaudy shopfront.

A different perspectiveThe endless, generation-spanning war between the Assassins and the Templars is the backbone of Assassin's Creed's mythology. But the idea that the Assassins are the good guys and the Templars are the villains is becoming increasingly blurred. Both groups are equally fanatical about their beliefs, to the point where I kind of hate both of them now. So I think it's time to introduce a third party.

In Metal Gear Solid 2, Hideo Kojima famously replaced longtime protagonist Solid Snake with a floppy-haired newcomer, Raiden. This was met, understandably, with a lot of criticism—but it was actually a stroke of genius. Koj's idea was to make players see Snake from a new perspective: as a mythical hero, rather than the character we were comfortable with. This is an interesting way of refreshing an established mythology without completely changing it, and it could work in Assassin's Creed.

I'd love to play as a character who has some other interest in the Animus, and who doesn't give a damn about the Pieces of Eden, the Templars or the Assassins. There are countless other reasons why someone would want to delve into the memories of their ancestors. Ubisoft are so duty-bound to their progressively bloated mythology that they're not taking full advantage of a really powerful storytelling tool.

I must admit, the Victorian London setting of Victory has intrigued me, but I'm remaining cautiously optimistic. I honestly don't think Ubisoft will break away from their established template any time soon, which is a shame. But that's the cold, hard reality of making blockbuster games. Maybe one solution is giving smaller studios with big ideas access to the license, then letting them make interesting spin-offs.

Even if Assassin s Creed sticks to the same old routine, the sad truth is, I ll probably still play them. They re enjoyable fantasy romps set in stunningly realised locations, and I m fairly invested in the story. But I ll always have a niggling feeling as I play that the series has the potential to be so much more.

But hey, at least Desmond s dead!

PC Gamer

The 2015 edition of Assassin's Creed will be set in the city of London during the Victorian era, according to a Kotaku source, and will be called Assassin's Creed: Victory.

As announced by Ubisoft over the summer, development of Victory will be led by Ubisoft Quebec. It's expected that it will be the only "main" Assassin's Creed game released in 2015, and is currently planned to come out in the fall.

Kotaku described the seven-minute-long "target gameplay footage" video its staffers viewed as "slick" and said it could pass as an E3 presentation. The mission in the video once again pitted the Assassins against the Templars, and featured a grappling hook that allowed the assassin to go vertical.

Several stills from the video are up at Kotaku and they certainly look good, very Victorian and all that, but there is something irksome about seeing the next Assassin's Creed—even by way of leaked footage—while the current game is still such a mess. At the time of writing, Ubisoft had not commented on the video.

Update: Moments after this article was published, Ubisoft replied to our request for a statement:

"It is always unfortunate when internal assets, not intended for public consumption, are leaked. And, while we certainly welcome anticipation for all of our upcoming titles, we're disappointed for our fans, and our development team, that this conceptual asset is now public. The team in our Quebec studio has been hard at work on the particular game in question for the past few years, and we're excited to officially unveil what the studio has been working on at a later date. In the meantime, our number one priority is enhancing the experience of Assassin's Creed Unity for players."

Announcement - Valve
Save up to 75% on the Assassin’s Creed® Franchise during this week's Midweek Madness*!

Be an Assassin - Master the skills, tactics and weapons of history's deadliest and most secretive clan of warriors. Plan your attacks, strike without mercy and fight your way to escape.

*Offer ends Friday at 10am Pacific.
PC Gamer

Fallout 3 begins in Vault 101, an underground nuclear shelter that s been sealed away from the outside world for well over a century. When the player character reaches the age of sixteen, they tussle with a group of obnoxious delinquents calling themselves the Tunnel Snakes. They re greasers in the classic mould, with leather jackets, slicked quiffs, and bad attitudes.

This is Fallout s thing, of course. Its world is a kitschy retro-future, as predicted on the pages of pulpy 1950s science fiction. But replaying the game recently, it struck me just how little sense the Tunnel Snakes make, even in this fantastical, stylised universe.

Think about it. They re greasers—a subculture that emerged around a passion for motorcycles, hot rods, and kustoms—in a closed-off bunker of narrow tunnels, where where there are no roads or vehicles to speak of. Then there s those matching leather jackets they all wear with the intricate snake emblems on the back. Where did they get them? How did they make them?

The Tunnel Snakes being jerks.

According to Fallout lore, Vault dwellers wear matching blue-and-yellow jumpsuits with the number of whichever one they happen to live in printed on them. So why are the Tunnel Snakes wearing these jackets, and where do you get a biker-style leather jacket in a place that, presumably, has limited raw materials and no means to produce them? Where did they get the leather?

Jesus, who cares? you re probably thinking to yourself. They put greasers in because it s a 50s thing, and Fallout is a riff on 50s American culture, and they needed some kind of antagonist for the player during the Vault sequence. Yeah, sure, I could suspend my disbelief—and they are pretty funny, I suppose—but, to me, they re indicative of a larger problem in game design: style over function.

Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaker known for his obsessive attention to detail. In the documentary Stanley Kubrick s Boxes , journalist Jon Ronson digs through crates of archive material from the production of the late director s films, revealing the meticulous, fastidious research that went into their creation.

Dave Bowman travels beyond the infinite in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Mind-bending sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrates this perfectly. Everything in the film—from those great, spinning space stations to the infamous zero-gravity toilet on Heywood Floyd s shuttle—was designed with its function in mind. Kubrick and his team thought about how these things would actually work, and their designs were informed by science and astronautics, not by what looked cool.

It looks cool" is, unfortunately, the only thought that goes into a lot of video game designs—the costumes in Assassin s Creed being a prime example. The hood is an elegant, recognisable visual link between the games, but can you imagine sprinting and climbing around the Caribbean in Kenway s elaborate pirate get-up? Or hopping across the sun-battered rooftops of Constantinople in Ezio s frilly layers?

Alta r s white robes made more sense in the first game. There were fewer layers, increasing his mobility and keeping the Middle-Eastern heat at bay, and he could blend in with those groups of robe-wearing scholars. But with every game, more bits have been added to the costumes, and now they just look over-designed. They re supposedly a secretive, underground order of hired killers, yet they all wear matching hooded uniforms and elaborate belt buckles in the shape of their logo.

Imagine how much he's sweating under all that.

There s a bit in Aliens: Colonial Marines where you discover that Weyland-Yutani have—surprise, surprise—been conducting sinister, top secret experiments in the famous derelict ship. Except all the equipment and storage crates littered around the place bear their logo. Not to mention the fact that the crashed ship would have been destroyed by the explosion at the end of Aliens along with Hadley s Hope. Gearbox tried to retcon this in some follow-up DLC, but I m not buying it. They just thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if you got to visit the derelict? And that s where their thought process ended.

To a lot of you, this will sound like nitpicking insanity. Just play the game, idiot! Who cares about all these dumb little details? you re screaming at your monitor, red in the face. Well, I do, obviously. But beyond my own tedious appreciation for practical, considered design, it ultimately makes games better.

Ridley Scott s Alien is one of the most remarkable feats of production design in film, and still stands up to this day. Have you seen the Blu-ray? It looks beautiful, and hasn t aged a bit, despite the chunky late 70s tech and flickering CRT monitors. This is thanks not only to the directing eye of Scott and the horrifying psychosexual art of H.R. Giger, but also concept artists Chris Foss and Ron Cobb s contributions.

Early Ron Cobb concept art for Alien's Nostromo.

I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this, said Cobb in 1979 s The Book of Alien.    I've always felt that there's another way to do it: a lot of effort should be expended toward rendering the environment of the spaceship—or whatever the fantastic setting of your story should be—as convincingly as possible, but always in the background. That way the story and the characters emerge and they become more real.

This is why 2001 and Alien still look amazing, despite being, respectively, 45 and 35 years old. The interior of the Nostromo was so believable, Giger said in Famous Monsters magazine. I hate these new-looking spacecraft. You feel like they re just built for the movie you re seeing. They don t look real. Cobb, Foss, and Scott, like Kubrick before them, thought about the practicalities of the things they were creating, and they ve become timeless as a result—something I hope to see more of in games as they slowly leave their adolescence and become a more confident, refined artform.

So maybe it doesn t matter where the Tunnel Snakes got those leather biker jackets, or if they do indeed rule. But if video games are ever going to create worlds as enduring and convincing as the films mentioned here, and countless other examples I could list, they re going to have to start thinking about their designs beyond just aesthetics and the shallow concept of cool.

PC Gamer
acrogue


How badly do you want a new Assassin's Creed game designed especially for last-gen consoles? Well, it depends how fond of Black Flag's naval combat you were. For those of us eager to blow things up at sea again, it's looking more and more likely that Assassin's Creed Rogue will come to PC. Not only has the Brazillian Classification Board listed it for PC, but the game also appeared briefly in Ubisoft's Uplay Reward page for PC at the weekend.

NeoGaf users managed to capture screenshots of both instances. It's not the most surprising news, since associate producer Karl Von Der Luheas indicated earlier this month that the studio is "looking into" the possibility of a PC edition. Given that an Assassin's Creed installment originally released exclusively for Vita ended up on PC, you'd be a fool to bet against Rogue following suite eventually.

Of course, Assassin's Creed Unity is the biggest game in the series to launch this year, and it's confirmed for PC. The latest trailer explains gear and co-op. It releases November 14.
PC Gamer

How badly do you want a new Assassin's Creed game designed especially for last-gen consoles? Well, it depends how fond of Black Flag's naval combat you were. For those of us eager to blow things up at sea again, it's looking more and more likely that Assassin's Creed Rogue will come to PC. Not only has the Brazillian Classification Board listed it for PC, but the game also appeared briefly in Ubisoft's Uplay Reward page for PC at the weekend.

NeoGaf users managed to capture screenshots of both instances. It's not the most surprising news, since associate producer Karl Von Der Luheas indicated earlier this month that the studio is "looking into" the possibility of a PC edition. Given that an Assassin's Creed installment originally released exclusively for Vita ended up on PC, you'd be a fool to bet against Rogue following suite eventually.

Of course, Assassin's Creed Unity is the biggest game in the series to launch this year, and it's confirmed for PC. The latest trailer explains gear and co-op. It releases November 14.

PC Gamer
watchdogs
The original Assassin's Creed was a beautiful world in search of a game to occupy it. (When a large proportion of your mission design involves sitting on benches, you've got a variety problem.) Second time around Ubisoft made good on the premise with the brilliant Assassin's Creed 2, Brotherhood, and the company expects Watch Dogs to follow a similar pattern.

In an interview with our friends over at CVG, Ubisoft Montreal vice president of creative Lionel Raynaud called the cyber vigilantism game "a brand and promise" for the future. "The reception has actually been pretty close to Assassin's Creed ," he noted, "with the first one we didn't have such a good reception, and it was fair."
Raynaud also admitted that there were problems with Watch Dogs' replayability, and that it was easy to spot that it was a first iteration. He also made the point that while Ubisoft always knew that Assassin's Creed had potential, it didn't know it would become the mammoth franchise that it is today.
"It's the same thing with Watch Dogs: it was difficult to do everything at the right level, which is why we took more time," he said. "The time we took was definitely useful it allowed us to release the game without compromises and do everything that we wanted. We also kept parts of the game we felt didn't fit with the original for the sequel."
That sequel is already in the works, as Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot revealed just weeks after Watch Dogs launched.
Raynaud confirmed that the sequel will not only try to make good on the promise of the core idea, as the Assassin's Creed series eventually did, but also live up to that first impressive demo of the game we saw at E3 2012.
That's likely to be quite a way off, though. If you don't want to wait, the final release of TheWorse Mod enables many of the visuals effects presented in the E3 2012 demo that were cut from the final release.
PC Gamer
acrogue-gi-01_161299


You haven't read much about Assassin's Creed Rogue around these parts because it's being developed exclusively for consoles, which puts it a bit outside the purview of a site called PC Gamer. But as Ubisoft revealed last month, that situation may change in the relatively near future.

Assassin's Creed Rogue applies an interesting twist to the familiar formula by putting players in the boots of Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin who switches sides to become a Templar after a betrayal at the hands of the Brotherhood. "This is something we've thought about all the way since AC1. What would it be like to play as a Templar?" Associate Producer Karl Von Der Luhe said in a Uplay interview. "We think it's really powerful, both in gameplay and storyline premise. Shay Patrick Cormac will go through a very emotional journey from being an Assassin to being a fully-fledged Templar, and we want the player to go through a similar journey."

But if you want to embark on that journey, you'll need either an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, since there's no word of a PC release. It's an odd omission, especially since the upcoming Assassin's Creed Unity is being developed for the PC (as have all previous console-based AC titles), but it's also one that may eventually be rectified.

"The game is being developed for 360 and PS3," Von Der Luhe continued. "We've heard a lot of response requesting a PC version, so we'll be looking into that very soon."

It's not exactly a rock-solid confirmation, but given Ubisoft's relentless sequelization of Assassin's Creed and the fact that next-gen console versions of Rogue haven't been announced yet either, I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a PC version by the end of the year. Both Assassin's Creed Rogue and Assassin's Creed Unity launch in November.
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