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Editorial

Microsoft Doomed To Repeat Past Mistakes with UWP

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Microsoft’s latest exclusive, Quantum Break, is a pretty decent game by all accounts. It’s garnering solid, if not spectacular, reviews (we liked it) – at least on the Xbox One. The PC version is, sadly, a very different story.

A PC version of Quantum Break had been mooted by many, but it was only finally confirmed by Remedy and Microsoft earlier this year, somewhat late in the day of the game’s development. This should have been Warning Sign number one. Clearly they didn’t just start working on it then, but it did give the impression that this decision of a simultaneous Xbox/PC release was made a little late in the day.

But the biggest issue has turned out to be UWP – Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform. This is a fancy way of saying “a game ported from the Xbox One and delivered to the PC exclusively through the Windows 10 store.” And in and of itself that isn’t a bad thing, until you start to look under the hood. In UWP, V-sync cannot be disabled, nor can you use fullscreen mode. Your only choices are windowed or fullscreen (borderless). In addition, Eurogamer reported that your framerate is capped at 5/6 of your monitor’s refresh rate, no matter how good your video card. So someone who’s spent hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line video card can enjoy their framerate cap of 50fps on their 60Hz monitor, and this cannot be disabled. The game also has significant performance and crashing issues, even on top-0f-the-line graphics cards, to where it’s almost impossible to have a smooth gameplay experience no matter how good your PC hardware.

Quantum Break on the PC is also not natively rendered at 1080p, instead using something called “temporal reconstruction” to combine the previous four 720p frames into a 1080p output. Perhaps there’s an argument for doing this on Xbox – perhaps – but almost any modern PC should be capable running a modern title in 1080p on medium settings at the very least. In this PC age of 1440p and even 4k gaming (2160p), manipulation of 720p frames is a massive step backwards for a modern triple-A title. It’s particularly surprising coming from Microsoft, whose recent “we really like PC gaming; forget about Games For Windows Live, and also a bunch of other stuff we’ve said and done to screw the pooch” attitude towards the PC as a 50-50 gaming platform alongside the Xbox was actually beginning to make people think they were taking it seriously.

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And perhaps the biggest issue with UWP games: they are completely locked down, similar to their console brethren. One of the best reasons to actually play games on the PC in the first place is customisation. Maybe this .ini file needs to get edited to fix an issue the developer won’t be able to patch for another few weeks, or you want to add some new textures or mods to a game. On the PC, you can do this most of the time. Not so in UWP. There is no editing or modification of the game’s files possible in any way – meaning that all of the PC version’s issues can only be fixed by Remedy and Microsoft on their timetable (assuming some of the issues are even fixable). UWP further disallows any kind of game overlays, so no Steam overlay and no FRAPs overlay (showing you the game’s FPS counter). You get the base game and that’s it.

If Microsoft wants to convince PC gamers that they’re serious about PC gaming (and stop me if you’ve heard this before – more than once), these sorts of things can’t happen. Putting out a flagship title like this with the issues it has would not be acceptable on the Xbox – so why is it acceptable on the PC? Microsoft clearly doesn’t value their PC audience as much as their Xbox consumer base, so in turn, why should PC gamers care about Microsoft’s future plans for the platform?

It isn’t all absolutely dire. A forthcoming update to UWP scheduled for May will hopefully let us disable v-sync, as well as use technologies like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync, but I’m not sure this will be enough to save the UWP experiment. PC gamers are reliant on user patches, modding, .ini file editing, and graphics and sound customization. Gutting most of these just so you can say that you’re releasing a game on PC is not going to make people buy your title, or make it good. After all, what’s the point of buying it on PC in the first place if you can’t do these things? You may as well just grab an Xbox One, slap Quantum Break in the tray and go to town. You’ll certainly get a far superior gaming experience that way right now, anyway.

At this point, I’ve lost count of the number of times Microsoft have professed their love of the PC as a gaming platform and have then turned around and done something moronic that’s completely at odds with that stance. Maybe UWP will go the way of Games For Windows Live, or maybe it can be saved. I don’t claim to know the future, but I do know what has happened in similar situations in the past. If Microsoft doesn’t turn the UWP ship around – and fast – expect to see it die a quick death in an obscure press release sometime in the future. And maybe that would be for the best.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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