News + Features
Microsoft has a lot of eggs in a basket labelled ‘Xbox One X’. It’s marketed as the ultimate premium games console; the box you buy if you want the best of the best from your console experience. Unless by best of the best you’re referring to the exclusives, which are, arguably, coming up woefully short in comparison to the competition.
Games nowadays often have fantastic onboarding processes. Additional layers of nuance are fed to you until you reach a state of zen-like mastery of the control systems and competing mechanics. All of a sudden you can slow-motion leap off a cliff, notch an arrow and fire it through someone’s skull, drop and roll, slide through a dinosaur’s leg and stab it through the gut. All totally effortless. And then life happens. You’re too busy to get to your PC for a few weeks. You go on holiday. You have a kid. And then you think about going back and finishing that game you’d become so awesome at. Only all those nuanced controls and gameplay mechanisms...you’ve got no idea how they fit together anymore. That slow motion leap off a cliff becomes a crumpled thud on the floor, before a dino’s leathery twinkle toes make it goodnight Vienna.
Over the last week, during E3 2017, we’ve been treated to literally hundreds of trailers, amounting to dozens of hours of footage. This time last week we barely knew what Assassin’s Creed Origins is. Now we know the ins and outs of its menu system, what we’ll be able to do its open-world, and all the many and varied additions which Ubisoft hope will improve it over its predecessors. It’s never been easier to receive a wealth of information on the games you are interested in. But, are we now being shown too much? Are there any surprises left for when a game launches?
As much as we all try to keep a rational head on things, sometimes the things we liked, or the things we fondly miss, don’t really make that much sense. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can even make us miss things we even actively disliked, purely because it’s now unobtainable. As we’ve built up a catalogue of years spent gaming behind us (roughly 22 for myself), gaming has changed dramatically. There are things we miss; aspects of gaming that have just become obsolete. Let’s celebrate them. 
With the whiff of negativity that surrounds gaming sometimes, it’s often easy to forget just how stupendous this hobby can be sometimes. Teams of developers can band together and create entire worlds for us to habit, playing God to our every whim, while the hardware manufacturers and artists combine to ensure these experiences have never looked better, offering damn near photorealistic playpens for us to save the world in. So let’s push aside our gripes about micro-transactions, always-online, or DRM, for a moment, and celebrate some of the best things that have happened to us lately in gaming.
One of the arguable selling points of a console is the fixed hardware, a factor sort of obfuscated when you take into account the PS4 Pro and Scorpio. By and large, though, console users have the exact same hardware and can expect the exact same performance as one another. PC gaming, on the other hand, is a far more complicated beast. While yes, performance can be worse than consoles, it can also be far, far greater. PS4 users have been stuck playing Bloodborne at 30 FPS with terrible frame times for the last two years now. Plop that same game on PC and we could comfortably throw enough at Bloodborne to play it at 60 FPS in glorious 4K. 
As far as hot messes go, Mass Effect Andromeda has been comfortably been the hottest mess of 2017. In gaming at least; there’s been enough high profile cock-ups elsewhere to last us a lifetime. At the end of the day though, when we think of Mass Effect Andromeda with level heads, there are far worse games out there. It wasn’t even terrible, but a much-loved franchise veering into decidedly average territory.
One of the often overlooked elements when purchasing snazzy new gaming hardware is the human cost. No, not the cost of you going to work for hour upon hour, saving up the cash for that svelte new graphics card, but the cost in human lives when obtaining the minerals necessary to manufacture the graphics chips and CPUs. A huge portion of minerals used are obtained from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding African countries. Historically this has been a cause for the concern, with the DRC trapped in one world’s worst modern humanitarian crises. The hunt for rare minerals has attracted armed groups and militia, committing human rights abuses in an effort to mine tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (3TG).
Us PC gamers are impatient beasts, and don’t the hardware manufacturers just know it. Every waking moment it feels as if there’s something new right around the corner. The shiny, glitzy new component which will elevate your gaming to a whole new level. Suddenly a new graphics card is announced and we begin to look at our PCs with disgust, thinking it’s probably time to throw half of it in the trash and awaken to a whole generation of performance. 
In the land of ye olde video games, there are few bigger gets than ‘winning’ E3. You don’t get a prize. You don’t even get an award. But the ramifications of a blockbuster E3 press conference are far reaching, even now as E3’s most burning bright light becomes a fading force. Just ask Sony, who’s E3 2013 press conference effectively secured its placed as the number one console manufacturer in the world.
We’ve now approached a time wherein there are a couple of dozen new Steam releases each and every day. There’s no possible way this quantity of games can be covered in anything approaching a comprehensive fashion. Now, more than ever, great games can slip through the cracks, overshadowed by the other titles which all too quickly shunt them down the New Releases column and off the front page forever.